PHOTOS: Banyana Banyana Twitter and CAF Women Twitter
It takes a strong heart to follow your national team: the emotional roller-coaster that comes with it could probably earn you serious Discovery miles.
But watching Banyana Banyana comes with sheer pleasure a lot of the times – in fact, I hardly go into a South African senior women’s national team fixture worried they might blow it and disappoint the millions watching.
To rubber stamp the good work being done by coach Desiree Ellis, a tough as nails defender and captain of the same side during her playing days, CAF awarded her with the Women’s Coach of the Year on Thursday night in Morocco.
2000: 🥈— #TotalEnergiesWAFCON2022 (@CAFwomen) July 23, 2022
This is 5th final for #TeamSouthAfrica. After collecting the silver medal in all 4 previous encounters, can they win gold this time? 🥇#TotalEnergiesWAFCON2022 | #EmpoweringOurGame | @Banyana_Banyana pic.twitter.com/469ZfFTsNf
And that setting is where Ellis could take his coaching career to new heights on Saturday night when Banyana face the hosts in the Women’s Africa Cup of Nations (WAFCON) at the Stade Prince Moulay Abdallah, where I will be among the spectators.
Their preparation was not ideal due to the Covid-19 pandemic as Ellis only managed to lead her side in a handful matches before the tournament, which included qualifiers to book their ticket to the continental competition.
But they were always described as favourites, and that speaks to Banyana’s pedigree in Africa alongside Nigeria – the 11 times WAFCON champions – and Cameroon, who are like bridesmaids and hardly get to the crown.
Well, you could argue the same about Banyana too, although their trajectory under Ellis, who took over from Vera Pauw in 2016, cannot be questioned.
Yes, like any coach she has her detractors, who feel the omission of experienced striker Andisiwe Mgcoyi in favour of 19-year-old Nthabiseng Majiya in her final squad was rather bizarre and suggested a personality clash between player and coach. But she’d argue Majiya has been as lethal during the Hollywoodbets Super League season to date.
This is no different, honestly, with her Bafana Bafana counterpart Hugo Broos’ stance on ignoring Andile Jali, Bongani Zungu, Lebo Phiri and Lebo Mothiba – all good players that could completely make a visible impact in the national team.
But the Belgian insists he works with players he wants to work with and will fall on his sword if his selection criteria becomes his undoing.
Ellis should be allowed the same courtesy – not that Broos has gone about his business without getting blasted by both the press and the supporters.
When Banyana deliver below average performances, her critics come out guns blazing, but forget that Ellis has now guaranteed the team a second successive FIFA World Cup appearance in her tenure so far.
Imagine their reaction when they win the WAFCON title on Saturday night (yes, I believe) and return to OR Tambo International Airport to a rousing welcome while celebrating the biggest trophy in any CAF competition alongside the men’s version and the players pocketing around R400 000 each for winning it.
⚽ 𝐅𝐈𝐍𝐀𝐋 𝐃𝐀𝐘!#TeamMorocco 🆚 #TeamSouthAfrica— #TotalEnergiesWAFCON2022 (@CAFwomen) July 23, 2022
🏟️ Moulay Abdellah Sports Complex
⌚ 20:00 GMT
🏆 #TotalEnergiesWAFCON2022 final
It's time to decide the title winner, who'll take the trophy home? 👀 pic.twitter.com/KggvYJ3nUm
That’s what national teams do, they leave you a mess, toy with your emotions and consume your energy…but it’s so satisfying when you can boast about their achievements.
Next year’s FIFA World Cup in Australia and New Zealand will be tough because Banyana are taking baby steps at the at level. We are all hoping for a favourable draw in October. But that they will be on a plane to the global showpiece should be enough – for now.
- Catch South Africa vs Morocco at 10pm tonight. On SuperSport and Showmax Pro.