Johannesburg – While many South African football fans are pulling their hair out because Bafana Bafana are not at the World Cup in Russia, Banyana Banyana have already set their sights on the Women’s World Cup in France next year.
The senior women’s national team qualified for the African Women’s Cup of Nations last week after thrashing neighbours Lesotho 7-0 on aggregate.
No sooner was this feat achieved than coach Desiree Ellis declared she was looking beyond the continental shindig and had set her sights on the global event.
The South African Under-17 women’s team qualified for the World Cup after walloping Morocco 6-1 on aggregate in February.
Asked what makes her troops tick, Ellis said: “It’s their willingness to die for the team. They are fully aware that it’s our duty as a group to make the country proud. They play for each other, and they respect and play for the badge.”
Ellis, who made history last year when she became the first local player to win the Council of Southern Africa Football Associations (Cosafa) Cup as a player and as a coach, said the Cosafa experience united the team.
“At Cosafa, the players were united and played as a unit, which was important going into the future.”
She said Banyana had a large pool of players, which gave her the privilege of being able to select a variety of players.
“If you were to give everyone in the office a piece of paper to select a squad, everyone would select a different squad,” she said.
“We played four games in eight days [in the Cosafa tournament] and this created a situation where anyone can play. Some players got injured before we went to Lesotho last week, but we were able to bring in suitable replacements.”
The coach brought in Under-23 midfielder Karabo Dlamini and goalkeeper Mapaseka Mpuru, as well as Under-20 midfielder Gabriela Salgado and defender Khanya Xesi.
The former Banyana midfielder believes her team will go a long way at the continental showpiece, which will help them qualify for the World Cup.
“Since the Under-17s have qualified, they have set the benchmark. Qualifying is now non-negotiable. It’s payback time for us to the SA Football Association [Safa] for its investment, and we thank it for the support it has given us,” she said.
“Any team that goes to the tournament but is not here to win the game should just stay at home.”
Ellis said newly elected Safa vice-president Ria Ledwaba had promised that the organisation would soon stage an international competition in which only the top two African teams would compete.
However, the details of the competition are still unclear.
The top three finishers of the Africa Women Cup of Nations will qualify for next year’s World Cup.
The tournament will take place from November 17 to December 1 in Ghana.
Meanwhile, the Under-12 McCarthy VW Constantia team left for Berlin, Germany, this week.
They will participate in the international Volkswagen Junior Masters soccer tournament against teams from Austria, France, Germany, Ireland and Kazakhstan, among other nations. They qualified for the international showpiece after beating Barons Bruma 3-0 in a qualifier in December.