Desiree Ellis sets sights on maiden Olympic qualification as head coach

Desiree Ellis sets sights on maiden Olympic qualification as head coach

Banyana Banyana coach Desiree Ellis has seen considerable success with the senior national team, yet the Olympic Games remains the one significant achievement that eludes her.

Despite being honoured as the African women’s Coach of the Year for 2018, 2019, 2022 and most recently in 2023, she has yet to guide Banyana to the Olympics since taking the head coach role.

When Banyana appeared at the Rio Games in 2016, it was still under the guidance of then-head coach Vera Pauw, with Ellis serving as assistant at the time, but she now has her sights on overcoming Tanzania to take one step closer to Paris.

"It's never ever been about me, it's always been about the team goal. I think when we talk about the team, you'd always say it's about the team first and the individuals will stand out and get accolades, and it's a big thank you to the team," said Ellis.

"But I don't think you have to have it in isolation about me, I think it's a team goal that we want to qualify, having missed out in 2020, and there are still a couple of players here part of the squad who missed out then too."

Tanzania’s league season is currently in full swing, in contrast to South Africa’s domestic league which is currently in its pre-season phase. 

Despite this discrepancy, Ellis acknowledges the challenging timing of the Olympic qualifying schedule but affirms their determination to pursue their dream of making it to the Olympics. 

"The Olympic schedule has always been tough, [not only] playing different rounds, but having to prepare for different types of teams," she acknowledged.

"Likewise, with Tanzania, who are in-season, I think this camp that we've just had is really important [because] we were in a similar situation with the 2022 WAFCON, when we also played Algeria, we played Zambia to help us become physically ready and it really helped.

"So this camp has been really fruitful. We know all the other players are playing abroad, so that really helps us as well, and we were just trying to bridge that gap in terms of conditioning, so a big thank you to the clubs [for releasing players from pre-season]."

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