Wonder Woman: Desiree Ellis

Desiree Ellis will go down in history as the individual who made 2018 Banyana Banyana’s year to shine. South Africa stood up and took notice of the women’s national soccer team as they went from glory to glory, making the nation proud under the tutelage of the 55 year old coach.

After spending time as assistant coach and interim coach, Ellis was made head coach in February 2018, taking over from Vera Pauw. She came in with the goal of ensuring the team qualified for the 2018 Africa Women’s Cup of Nations (AWCON), 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup, and 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo.

Coach Ellis with the squad (Courtesy of Soccer Laduma)

Hailing from Salt River in Cape Town, Ellis played for Banyana Banyana herself between 1993 and 2002. In her time representing the nation, she earned 32 caps as a midfielder, captained the side for eight years from 1994, and enjoyed the sweet victory of winning the COSAFA Women’s Championship in her final year with the team.

When Banyana Banyana retained their COSAFA title in September last year, she became the first person to enjoy that victory twice: firstly as a player, secondly as a coach.

Ellis led the ladies through the thrilling 2018 AWCON tournament in Ghana where they completed as runners up to Nigeria. The loss was soothed by the knowledge that second place still allowed the team to qualify for the 2019 World Cup taking place in France this June.

With such big milestones achieved in under a year, it was no wonder Ellis was named CAF Coach of the Year on Tuesday, outshining her male counterparts as the only woman nominated in the category.

Receiving the Women’s Coach of the Year award from FIFA secretary general Fatma Samoura. (Courtesy of eNCA)