2024 Olympics: Desiree Ellis warns Banyana stars to be ‘professional’ against Tanzania

Banyana Banyana coach Desiree Ellis. Picture: Michele Spatari / AFP

Banyana Banyana coach Desiree Ellis. Picture: Michele Spatari / AFP

Published Feb 27, 2024


Desiree Ellis has urged her team to be professional when they meet Tanzania in the second leg of the Olympic qualifiers tonight, despite leading 3-0 in the tie.

Ellis’s Banyana Banyana have one foot in the last and final round of the Olympic qualifiers, having trounced Tanzania 3-0 in Dar es Salaam in the first leg. But such has been Banyana’s heartbreak in the last qualifiers and high expectations, they do not have room to leave anything to chance.

The South Africans missed out on the Tokyo finals four years ago after losing to neighbours Botswana in the qualifiers on home soil. And having done well recently, winning the African crown and qualifying for back-to-back World Cups, Banyana are compelled to win at all times.

So, it is for those reasons and more that coach Ellis has urged her team to not be complacent when they clash with Tanzania at Mbombela Stadium tonight.

“We still have to make sure that we are at our absolute best because it can never be over until the final whistle,” Ellis told the Safa media department yesterday.

“We must ensure that we are the team that scores the first goal, and by doing so, we’ll take the tie away from Tanzania. But we’ve seen them play away from home, and they got a result against a team like Botswana … not an easy feat when playing at home.

“So, yes, we might have won 3-0 but we know how easily things can change. We must be professional in the way we do things and win this match as well.”

Ellis is right. Her troops must always be professional if they are to make up for lost time and reach the promised land in Paris later this year.

Banyana will face either Cameroon or Nigeria in the final round of the qualifiers, if they get the job done in Mbombela this evening.

Cameroon and Nigeria are, just like Banyana, powerhouses of African football, meaning there’s nothing they’ll relish more than beating Ellis’s ladies. But to always be at their best at all times, Ellis is banking on their supporters to rally behind them whenever they take the pitch.

She is hopeful that the masses of Nelspruit and surrounding areas will come out in numbers to support them tonight.

After all, that Banyana will be playing at one of the 2010 World Cup stadiums is a boost for them as they’ll familiarise themselves with such environments.

“We are in a different province,” she said.

“I think Banyana last played here in 2014. So, we are excited to be here, we got a warm welcome where we are staying. We are looking forward to playing at another World Cup stadium … we are looking forward to the fans coming out in numbers.

“I know Banyana is loved around the country. Yeah, we are in a different province, so hopefully we (supporters) can come out in numbers to support this wonderful team.”