JOHANNESBURG, SOUTH AFRICA - MAY 17:  during the South African national womens soccer team squad announcement at SAFA House on May 17, 2019 in Johannesburg, South Africa. (Photo by Lee Warren/Gallo Images)
Getting to Know – Desiree Ellis

The Women’s Africa Cup of Nations-winning coach on some of the things that make her tick, including leadership style, equal pay for South Africa’s national football teams, and what she hopes will come from Banyana Banyana’s WAFCON victory.

Q: How would you describe your leadership style?
A:
It’s a combination of transformational, supportive and democratic. In terms of transformational, I don’t have to be present to effect change. Supportive, in a way that I don’t micro-manage. Everyone is an expert in their own right and we are respectful towards each other. In terms of democratic leadership, we emphasize equality and encourage discussion and a flow of ideas. We pride ourselves on teamwork both on and off the field.

Q: What’s the most difficult aspect of being Banyana Banyana coach?
A:
I work with an amazing group of technical and support staff members and this makes the job so much easier. But I would say selections, pre-camp, and final selections. Having to tell someone that they did not make the squad is the most difficult.

Q: As a former player and now coach, what have you learnt over the years about the ‘business’ of football?
A:
Be honest, but trust plays a huge role. Stay true to who you are and trust the process, no matter if things don’t always go right.

Q: What’s your view on the state of women’s sport – not just football – in SA and its current commercial viability?
A:
I think women have taken their rightful space in sport and maybe the sponsors should tell us what they are looking for, as we have many excellent athletes and sports teams that are really doing well. Sasol has been with us since 2009 and has been to two successive Olympic Games, and now two successive World Cups, along with being with us through numerous COSAFA Cup titles and two successive WAFCON finals, before finally getting that elusive gold medal.

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Q: There’s currently a lot being said and written about Banyana Banyana being paid the same as Bafana Bafana. What are your thoughts on this discussion?
A:
Well, Sports Minister Nathi Mthethwa and President Ramaphosa have said there will be equal pay and not just for football, but for all sports. SAFA President Danny Jordaan has also said that Banyana Banyana will earn the same as Bafana Bafana. They players know what they deserve.

Q: What other changes do you hope will come from Banyana Banyana’s WAFCON victory?
A:
We already see so many changes. For example, a competition in Cape Town that has being running for more than 20 years has now made prize money for the women’s section the same as for the men’s section. Hopefully more sponsors can come on board to elevate the women’s game to an even higher level. We have come a long way and we are not where we want to be, but moving in the right direction, and this victory is already opening so many doors. More competitions and resources are needed for clubs and maybe the next step should be to professionalise the women’s game.

Q: Do you follow other sports and who are you favourite teams and players?
A:
Yes, I do. All sports, especially women’s sports. And all national teams are my favourite teams, which includes the players as well. I support Manchester United, but my favourite player is no longer playing.

Q: Away from football, what are your personal interests and how do you spend your time away from the sport?
A:
I have a foundation and have collaborated with other organisations to make a difference in communities like my home town of Hanover Park. We concentrate mainly on feeding schemes, as that is the immediate need right now. I also spend time with family and friends whenever there is an opportunity, and that is what I really look forward to.

Dylan Rogers
Dylan Rogers

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