“One has been busier than when football is in session” – Ellis

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Banyana Banyana haven’t seen any action since thrashing neighbours Lesotho 3-0 at a packed Tsakane Stadium on Sunday, 8 March 2020 as football came to a sudden halt around the world due to the Coronavirus pandemic.

However, Banyana head coach Desiree Ellis says she has been busier than ever over the last two months since the national lockdown was implemented to curb the spread of the deadly virus.

“Funny enough, one has been busier than when football is in session. When the lockdown was announced, the first thing I did was to make sure I get back home to Cape Town,” said Ellis.

“And it has been a great time being with family during these difficult times – it’s moments like these when you realise just how important family is. My heart goes to those who had to endure being by themselves at this time because it is not easy,” – Ellis. Picture: Safa. 

According to the South African Football Association (Safa), Banyana were scheduled to play an international friendly match in April but, in line with the Disaster Management Act, the encounter was called off after the announcement of the lockdown.

“It has been a frustrating period, but the most important thing is safety. Even though we want to be on the field, safety comes first and right now football comes second,” added the Banyana coach.

“In the early days of the lockdown I spent a lot of time making contact with almost all the people I work with – coaches, players, colleagues, staff members in Banyana Banyana as well as local coaches.

“At Banyana we have a core group of 38 players, and we divided them into three groups where myself, Thinasonke Mbuli (Banyana assistant coach) and Shilene Booysen (Performance Analyst) would lead each group in discussions about several aspects of the game.

“It was a great exercise as it helped us keep in touch with the players and try to limit the impact of the Lockdown because it is new to all us – we didn’t know what to expect and how to react, so checking up on them helped.”

Ellis, who guided Banyana to their first ever FIFA Women’s World Cup in July 2019 – France admits that the pandemic has turned the world upside down as everything is now done differently. Picture: Safa.

“We have all been introduced to Zoom meetings – which is now the ‘new normal’. All of this can up the whole day. I am involved in community outreach with the Alcardo Andrews Foundation. I have also studied and completed three online coaching courses – about football periodization and football analysis.

“I am currently assisting SAFA Cape Town with an online coaching course where I focus on the selection criteria and getting coaches to focus on girls from young, so they get a better base to work.  One course ended on Tuesday (26 May 2020), – coach David Notoane was part of it and the second started on Thursday (28 May). It is fun and exciting to be part of the group, and it keeps you busy. I have also been attending webinars (online seminars), they are very informative,” the two-time Women’s African Coach of the Year award recipient continued.

“One was Supporting female athletes – Youth development considerations to senior player performance and showed the progress of Mallory Pugh from the US and considerations on preparation to performance. The other one was on the analysis of the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup.

Under Ellis, Banyana Banyana were the runners-up at the Africa Women Cup of Nations (AWCON) back in 2018, losing to Nigeria – Super Falcons in the final. Picture: Safa. 

“It is going to be hectic when we return to normal life with many games and you need to be ready and not find yourself rusty. Also, it is always good to refresh – I did my SAFA Introductory Course in 1998, so it’s good to spend time with different people who have different perspectives, we have to keep on empowering ourselves because this game evolves a lot.

“I have daily meetings with Riedoh, (Banyana fitness trainer) to prepare training sessions for the players. I also get to analyse games – see what we did right and what we did wrong. I watch other teams and check where best we can improve as a team when we return to the field.

This is also the best time to update the database because there are no player movements,” concluded Ellis.

RELATED STORY: Ellis: We’re impatient, we want the game to grow as quickly as possible

By Tokelo Martin Mokhesi 

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