10 January 2019– Head coach of the Sasol-sponsored Banyana Banyana, Desiree Ellis, and forward Thembi Kgatlana have thanked South Africa for the congratulatory messages and well wishes after lifting trophies at the 2018 CAF Awards held on Tuesday night (8 January 201) in Dakar, Senegal.

Ellis was named the CAF Women’s National Team Coach of the Year 2018 – becoming the first South African to win this award.

2018 was a year of re-writing the history books for Ellis – she was the first person to win the COSAFA Women’s Championship as both player and coach, and also the first coach to lead Banyana Banyana to FIFA World Cup qualification.

“It was a surreal moment for me, I am truly humbled and blessed by the award – we don’t do things for awards and rewards but I suppose if the team does well, that is the outcome. It is a great moment for me but I have to give credit to my assistants – we strategise and come up with a plan, and it’s up to the players to execute the plan, so it is a collective effort by the entire team. I am also grateful to SAFA for having faith in us as female coaches in the national teams, but also giving the necessary support by making sure that we get top quality opposition,” said Ellis from Dakar.

“You cannot forget our proud sponsor Sasol, this is the 10thyear they are backing women’s football and as the slogan says ‘the opportunities are limitless’, we are very grateful. This award is also for all the coaches in the Sasol League because of the tremendous work they put in. I should also thank the coaches that have come before me at Banyana Banyana as they laid the foundation and we have just continued with that. They say ‘it’s all in God’s timing,’ and this is the time. Thank you very much South Africa , but the hard work starts now as we prepare for our next big challenge, that is the World Cup.”

Kgatlana walked away with two awards on the night – African Women’s Player of the Year and CAF Goal of the Year.

She scored five goals in the 2018 Women’s AFCON in November – one against Nigeria which led to her nomination for the latter award.

The Houston Dash player was also a nominee for the African Player of the Year award in 2017.

She becomes the second player to win the trophy, after Noko Matlou in 2008.

“It has been a great 2018 for me and to have to receive two of the best awards in Women’s Football in Africa is an honour. And also winning the CAF Woman Player of the Year, breaking the record of ten years since compatriot Noko Matlou got it in 2008, is a motivation going forward,” said Kgatlana.

“Being nominated amongst men in the Goal of the Year category and still come out triumphant, thanks to the votes of many people in South Africa and around the world, is also a great honour. I would like to say thank you everyone who cast their votes – if it wasn’t for them I would not have achieved this milestone. So this trophy belongs to all who voted for me.”

Meanwhile Banyana Banyana have arrived in Cape Town for their training camp and will have their first session in the Mother City later today (Thursday, 10 January) at Ikamva, home of Ajax Cape Town at 15h00.

South Africa will face the Netherlands on Saturday, 19 January at 15h00 at the Cape Town Stadium, followed by Sweden three days later (Tuesday, 22 January) at 19h00, also at the same venue.

This is to kick-start preparation for the upcoming 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup set to be played in France from 7 June to 7 July.

Ellis, Kgatlana and Matlou will join their compatriots at training after attending the CAF Awards.

Sweden and the Netherlands are in Cape Town on Monday, 14 January.