Home Sport Desiree Ellis no ‘moegoe’ despite Banyana failing to qualify for Olympics …...

Desiree Ellis no ‘moegoe’ despite Banyana failing to qualify for Olympics … again

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The decision to name Desiree Ellis as the ‘Moegoe of the Week’ simply because Banyana Banyana had back-to-back failures in Olympic qualifying is a callous one.

Banyana Banyana coach Desiree Ellis gestures during the CAF Women’s Olympic qualifier against Nigeria at Loftus stadium. File Picture: Itumeleng English, Independent Newspapers

Herman Gibbs

The decision to name Desiree Ellis as the ‘Moegoe of the Week’ simply because Banyana Banyana had back-to-back failures in Olympic qualifying is a callous one.

‘Moegoe’ is a South African slang word for a stupid person, coward or weakling, and Ellis is none of these.

With their weekly feature, the Johannesburg-based Sunday World newspaper last week failed to acknowledge that the national women’s team have never enjoyed the support that a national team should.

It also appears that the South African Football Association hierarchy, charged with the day-to-day running of the organisation, are oblivious to the importance of this support.

At the outset of her tenure in 2016, Ellis realised this and called on outside help to present a strong case to Safa for basic support.

She had taken over from Vera Pauw, who was appointed in 2014 after she had coached the national women’s teams of Scotland, the Netherlands and Russia.

The vastly experienced Pauw guided South Africa to the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, where Banyana Banyana’s best result was a group-stage draw against eventual semi-finalists Brazil.

During her time in South Africa, Pauw had many fallouts with Safa because the support she wanted was not forthcoming. Pauw’s position could be likened to that of Hugo Broos, the current Bafana Bafana coach. The outspoken Broos has been highly critical of SA football, and he has not been wrong.

The basic needs for the national team would include securing suitable opponents for warm-up matches. Sometimes this may include travelling for away games. Often, this has not been possible because Safa does not have the funds for these matches.

Training camps are a vital part of the national team’s preparation, and this too can be costly.

Pauw placed a high emphasis on this. She identified the High Performance Centre at the University of Pretoria as a world-class facility, but ultimately it was too costly to have the entire squad working out there for an extended period. Consequently, Pauw secured the facility for a handful of young players.

Apart from warm-up matches and training camps, the support structures within the team are hopelessly inadequate.

In the world of modern football, the team’s support staff should include specialist medical and health professionals who can take care of various matters such as orthopaedics, cardiology, sports medicine, occupational medicine, physiotherapy, podiatry, nutrition and sports psychology.

Against this background, Banyana Banyana, with Ellis at the helm, did well to reach the last 16 of last year’s Fifa Women’s World Cup.

The Ellis-led Banyana also won the last Women’s Africa Cup of Nations in 2022. It was their first Wafcon championship title.

These are standout achievements in the annals of South African football.

For many years, local football has promoted gender equality. To this end, Safa proudly proclaims, at every opportunity, that all women’s or girls’ teams in the national set-up are coached by females. But one has to pity the players who are saddled with a coach who may be chosen essentially because she is female rather than on merit.

Ellis’ position will soon come under review, and after eight years, she might likely make way for a replacement.

If and when that happens, Safa must not jeopardise the appointment by insisting the new coach must be a woman. Let it be known that seven national women’s teams in the world’s top 10 are coached by men.

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