2 November 2018– Head coach of the Sasol-sponsored Banyana Banyana, Desiree Ellis, wasted no time when she returned from Zurich and went straight to the training field to continue the squad’s preparation for the 2018 Africa Women Cup of Nations set to kick off later this month (17 November to 1 December) in Ghana.

Ellis was in Europe to attend the inaugural FIFA Coach Mentorship Programme.

As part of FIFA’s commitment to increase the opportunities that exist within football for female coaches, the inaugural FIFA Coach Mentorship Programme began on 29 October 2018 at FIFA’s House of Football in Switzerland.

The new project is designed to support female coaches by enabling them to acquire new knowledge, skills and experience that they can harness in their careers.

Female coaches from all over the world have gathered in Zurich for the two-day workshop, where they will be paired with colossal names of women’s football, allowing them to benefit from invaluable first-hand advice, gain new ideas and share best practice.

Upon landing in South Africa, she did not have enough time to take a breather at the team hotel, but she says her trip was worth it.

“It was amazing being there and sitting among coaches who have done it all, they are so humble and helpful about everything. It was a gathering about a mentor and a mentee, I feel truly blessed that I am a mentor to someone – we will interact over the next year on what it is that they need and how I can help them,” said Ellis.

“I am just grateful for the opportunity given to me, not just by FIFA but also by SAFA. It shows that the Association is going in the right direction with women’s football, if you also take into consideration that Simphiwe Dludlu (a former Banyana Banyana player and captain) is at the World Cup as head coach of the U17 Women’s squad. But beyond that it shows that when we are given opportunities, it also creates opportunities for others.”

Ellis now has the difficult task of trimming her squad of 26 players down to 21 ahead of the tournament. She will announced her travelling team next week (Wednesday, 7 November).

“We know that we will make the right decisions because we want the best players to play for the national team, and players consistently raising their hands – and it shows that each and everyone of them want to be part of the national team and that is good,” added the former Banyana Banyana player.

The South Africans have been in camp for close to two weeks preparing for they call the most important tournament of their lives as it also doubles as the qualifiers for the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup in France – the top three will represent the continent at the premier women’s soccer showpiece.

“If we can execute our plan properly that is the most important thing. Facing Nigeria in the first game spices it up a bit, but we will be ready for it. When you go to a tournament you want to win it – and we are no different. Winning it secures a spot in France next year, and we are under no illusion that we will have a free ride because the other teams have the same ambition as us. We want to make sure and it starts with the first game,” said Ellis.

Banyana Banyana will depart for Ghana on Friday, 9 November.

They will face the host nation in a warm up match on Sunday, 11 November at the Accra Sports Stadium. Their first fixture in the tournament is against Nigeria on Sunday, 18 November at the Cape Coast Stadium.

South Africa has been drawn in Group B alongside Nigeria, Kenya and Zambia, while Ghana will take on Cameroon, Mali and Algeria in Group A.