2 October 2019 – Head coach of the Sasol-sponsored Banyana Banyana, Desiree Ellis, is working hard to ensure that her team will be ready to face Japan in an international friendly match.

This will be played on Sunday, 10 November 2019 at the Kitakyushu Stadium in Fukuoka in Japan.

Kickoff is at 15h00 local time (08h00 South African time).

The fixture comes two months after South Africa’s last match where they lost to Botswana on penalties in the Tokyo 2020 Olympic qualifiers.

This will be the second meeting between the two nations – they last met in 2012 in the group stages of the London Olympic Games, which ended goalless.

“We are obviously looking at the most recent games of Japan to come up with a game plan. I am attending a lot of matches, especially the SAFA Women’s National League, where I am constantly monitoring Banyana Banyana players, and also assessing those we have identified to can add value to the team,” said Ellis.

“Along with the fitness trainer and assistant coach, we are also already working on a training program to give to the core group of players as a few of the overseas based players are already back home – this will help a great deal in keeping their fitness levels up so they don’t have to start afresh when they come to the national team camp. The good thing is that the bulk of the squad is active week in week out and that gives us comfort.”

The Banyana Banyana mentor recently returned from a two-day FIFA Football Conference, the first ever by the organisation, which focused on the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup that took place in France in June.

Some of the people present at the gathering include head coaches of various women’s national teams – Netherlands’ Sarina Wiegman, Sweden’s Peter Gerhardsson, England’s Phil Neville, France’s Corinne Diacre, Italy’s Milena Bertolini, Germany’s Martina Voss-Tecklenburg, Norway’s Martin Sjögren, Australia’s Ante Milicic, Canada’s Kenneth Heiner-Møller, China’s Jia Xiuquan, Japan’s Asako Takakura, Spain’s Jorge Vilda, Argentina’s Carlos Borrello and Brazil’s newly appointed manager Pia Sundhage.

From the African continent, Cameroon’s Alain Djeumfa,Botswana’s Gaoletlhoo Nlutlusang, Zimbabwean’s Sithethelelwe Sibanda, Ugandan’s Faridah Bulega as well Ivory Coast’s Clementine Toure who was also part of the Technical Study Group, were also present

Ellis was on the panel that spoke on Coaching Points: Experience at and around France 2019.

“This conference was a real eye-opener and I am glad I went. I learnt so much from everyone who was there, and took pointers for future use. This was a very informative gathering where every speaker just had something different to say,” said Ellis.

“This was basically a gathering to exchange ideas on moving women’s football forward and I believe with the input that was made at the conference, this will make national teams around the world grow – an in return the next FIFA Women’s World Cup will be even bigger and better.”

The Technical Study Group also released the report on the 2019 World Cup and some of the points coming out of the book included:

  • Many goals scored from headers but most importantly the quality assists for those goals
  • There was also 1 set play goal for every 4 goals scored
  • The pressing was quicker and became harder for teams to play through to players in tight spaces
  • The game has become quicker
  • High mentality in regaining the ball almost immediately after losing it
  • Players have become better tactically and technically
  • There was a lot of unpredictability amongst the teams but efficiency in the final third needs to improve
  • Preparation prior to the tournament was key
  • Gap between top teams and developing sides is closing

The conference took place in Milan, Italy and coach Desiree took time out to go watch Banyana Banyana vice captain Refiloe Jane play for her new club, AC Milan.

“This was absolutely incredible and a privilege that I also got the opportunity to go watch Fifi at AC Milan when they played Oribico. I was encouraged by her performance in the midfield and she was key in the way they played by trying to switch play and playing forward as early and often as possible,” said Ellis.

“She has already become a huge crowd favourite and there was even a song sung by a section of the crowd and when she was replaced late in the 2ndhalf, she got a standing ovation. We had a bit of a chat but they had to leave as they were going to the San Siro to watch the Milan derby (AC Milan vs Inter Milan – men’s team).

Ellis is expected to announce her travelling squad to Japan in the next two weeks or so.