The South African women’s football coach, Desiree Ellis, on the Council of Southern Africa Football Associations (COSAFA) Cup, and why it is important to plan for a future after football.
- What are your biggest challenges coaching a national women’s soccer team?
I think it’s the same everywhere when you have to prepare for a match a week before the game.
- Would you say being a coach in South Africa is a lucrative career?
We have a semi-professional league, the Sasol League, many of the coaches have their own jobs so it is all about the passion and trying to make a difference.
- The biggest lesson you learned in your career?
Together, we can do anything. Football is a team sport but it is not just about the players, but the staff as well, each and every one has to play its part for it to be a success.
- As a woman, have you experienced discrimination on the field and how did you deal with it?
[There is a] lot of stereotyping that girls should not play football, but I had the support of both my parents and that’s all that mattered. I remember going to a match and guys walking by saying ‘let’s go watch these girls play and have a laugh’. After the game, they were our biggest supporters. We just tried to play the best we could and showed that we love the game and have the skills to play.
- What qualities do you believe make a good team?
There will always be special players in any team but teamwork is the most important for me, as the individualism of the special players will shine brighter through teamwork. The 2018 FIFA World Cup is a perfect example. The teams with a special player left the competition early…the likes of Belgium, England, Croatia and France who had special players but were more reliant on teamwork stood the test of time with France beating Croatia in the final.
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- What is the one thing soccer players take for granted?
Not taking care of tomorrow as there has to be a future after football because not everyone is going to play professional football. When I was playing, especially in the national team, 90% of the players were unemployed but now 90%, if not more, have degrees or are currently studying.
- What is more important to you, time or money?
Definitely time. It might take a lot of time and effort to get where you want to be, but it will be time spent wisely.
- How do you stay financially prudent?
I try to stay within my budget but sometimes it’s very difficult as I like to spoil my nieces and nephews but I also try to save money monthly.
- The moment you step on the field, you….?
Immediately focus on the task at hand, getting the most of our training session; reaching our objective for the session.