24 June 2020 – Banyana Banyana head coach Desiree Ellis says it was to be expected for the SAFA National Women’s League inaugural season to be called off, seeing that not even the PSL has resumed action.

Contact sport in South Africa, including football, is on hold due to the Corona Virus pandemic.

The last time a football match was played was back in March, but signs are there that professional football could be back in action soon – this comes after government gave contact sport the permission to can start training.

Mamelodi Sundowns Ladies Football Club has been crowned champions of the 2019/20 SNWL, with Tshwane University of Technology (TUT) coming in second position, while Bloemfontein Celtic completed the top three.

Limpopo side Ma-Indies and Gauteng-based JVW FC have been promoted to the SNWL.

Ellis says fans can expect a much-improved brand of football in the 2020/21 league season.

The Banyana Banyana mentor spoke to SAFA Media, and this is what she had to say:

What are your thoughts on the SNWL season ending with some games to spare?

DESIREE ELLIS: We have seen many leagues around the world being cancelled due to the Covid-19 pandemic and only a few non contact sports now getting the go ahead, it was always on the cards that this decision might be taken, so to be honest it did not come as a surprise. Also, if you take into consideration that, as we speak, the NSL (PSL) ?? hasn’t event kicked off, it was always going to be a tough ask for the SNWL and even the Sasol League to resume.

Your thoughts on Sundowns breaking record after record…

DE: I watched many games during the SNWL and thee players and the club as whole would have set targets before the season started and as the season went on, I am certain they realised that it was possible to set a record of not losing a match and going unbeaten. It’s a huge achievement to go through the season without losing a match and it is all credit to the players, coach Jerry and his technical team for the hard work and consistency. It surely is an incredible achievement and will be hard, but not impossible, to repeat.

They had total dominance, and not dropped points the entire season. What can you attribute that to?

DE: Whenever I watched them play, it was clear that they played as a team and had proven goal scorers throughout the team. They are very solid all-round, with a good blend of experience and youth. Sometimes they needed to dig deep when things did not go their way during games. Yes, they had a few difficult and tight games and I remember watching them against Durban Ladies, and for about 60 minutes it was still 0-0, the game eventually ended 3-0 in their favour. There was also another tight game against Richmond, where they won 1-0 away from home. In one of their other matches they were 2-0 down at half time to First touch Academy and eventually won – that showed hunger, character, resilience and perhaps some experience too.

How much has the SNWL helped Women’s Football, National Teams in particular?

DE: Let me say it is a good start, but certainly not where we want to be – it is without doubt a step in the right direction. It’s a shame that a few matches were postponed due some challenges that we could have perhaps avoided – like the non-arrival of match officials, or their late arrival, or even not booking fields – but these were teething problems that we had to deal with and we are wiser now. In the beginning I was very impressed with the intensity of the matches, but unfortunately many teams folded by the wayside as the season progressed. We also had matches that had some very big scores and, but that’s not always great for the game. So many young players coming through and holding their own impressed me – it is something worth getting excited about and shows the talent we have in this country.

Did the league achieve what it set out to do?

DE: Well, it is a yes and a no.

As i said in the beginning, all the matches, or at least most of them, were evenly matched and I was able to see most of the teams in the first couple of weeks as games were played at the same venue. I was also able to monitor players consistently but then teams played home and away matches and it became very difficult to follow all the players and teams. Later in the season there was a clear lack of quality and conditioning amongst some teams and this was evident with the big scores in matches. The games between the top teams had great intensity, a lot of quality and a joy to watch. I am certain that many teams are already planning for the new season and want to put up a better showing and challenge Mamelodi Sundowns for the title.

What lessons can we take from the inaugural season? What can we improve going forward?

DE: Firstly, it’s imperative that we get a sponsor for the League as this will help a great deal, but then again clubs also need to put up a better showing to increase this brand so that we can attract not only sponsors but also spectators as they help market the game.

There were many high-quality games and many low-quality matches as well –and that needs to change, consistency is very important. Clubs need to plan well, prepare better and also beef up their technical staff and playing squads. But the onus is also on the players to bring their brands on and off the field. I think it will be a huge plus for the league if PSL clubs like Orlando Pirates and Kaizer Chiefs come on board – it will surely change the landscape of Women’s Football in the country, as we will see a huge shift in the mindset of people and sponsors.

JVW and MaIndies gaining promotion for the second season, what advice can you give them?

DE: I am pretty sure that while they were playing their matches in the Sasol League, they also kept a close on the SNWL activities, on and off the field. So, I believe they know the challenges the teams faced and can learn from that and try to avoid them. Obviously, they must plan and prepare well and make sure that they do not fall short midway through the season. Perhaps the most important is that they must have Plan A, B and C. In my opinion, they must quickly lose the ‘newcomers’ tag and get stuck in from the first whistle so they don’t have to play catch up as the season advances.

What do you think we can expect next season from the SNWL?

DE: I think everyone will bring their A game.

On the one hand, you will have Mamelodi Sundowns trying to maintain their dominance, trying to break more records, trying to defend their League title, while on the other, you will have all the other clubs having a go at them trying to wrestle the title from them. If teams keep the bulk of their squad, you will have more experience on the field, which will lead to better quality games where players are more challenged than they were in the first season. Not forgetting that you will also have Ma-Indies and JVW looking to add more quality, so I think we are in for an exciting season of the SNWL – much better than what we first saw.