Why Banyana coach Desiree Ellis' CAF award is special to Fran Hilton-Smith

Striker Thembi Kgatlana (L) and coach Desiree Ellis (R) pose with their Caf Awards.
Striker Thembi Kgatlana (L) and coach Desiree Ellis (R) pose with their Caf Awards.
Image: Safa.net

Desiree Ellis winning the Confederation of African Football’s Women’s Coach of The Year prize at the Caf Awards is yet another vindication of her appointment as Banyana Banyana coach‚ says Fran Hilton-Smith.

Ellis’s award at the ceremony in Dakar‚ Senegal on Tuesday night was special to Hilton-Smith‚ Safa’s assistant technical director and head of women’s football‚ for two reasons.

Hilton-Smith was Ellis’s Banyana coach in the 1990s.

She also felt the award vindicated Ellis’s appointment as Banyana coach.

Safa had taken a year-and-a-half‚ from August 2016 to February 2018‚ to appoint Ellis as Vera Pauw’s full-time successor while she filled a caretaker role.

Ellis has steered Banyana to winning the 2017 and 2018 Cosafa Women’s Championships‚ and to the final of the 2018 Africa Women’s Cup of Nations (Awcon)‚ where they lost on penalties against now 11-time winners Nigeria.

As top-three finishers at the Awcon in Ghana Banyana qualified for their first Fifa Women’s World Cup.

While Ellis won Coach of the Year‚ 22-year-old forward Thembi Kgatlana won African Women’s Player of the Year and Goal of the Year.

“I think the reason Des has done well is that she comes from women’s football here in South Africa‚” Hilton-Smith said.

“She was the Banyana captain for 10 years. She’s worked with a number of coaches. She’s had a lot of development in her coaching.

“She’s done courses in the Netherlands‚ we sent her to Germany‚ she’s got her Caf A licence.

“Des worked under Vera for a year-and-a-half. That was a learning experience for Des too‚ because Vera brought all that knowledge from Europe.

"And they are‚ in Europe‚ a step ahead.

“Now we’ve been able to study them and see what they do. And that’s helped Desiree to compete‚ which clearly she’s shown she now can‚ winning Cosafa twice and narrowly nearly winning the Awcon.

“When I coached her at Banyana she already showed the potential to go onto coaching.

“And now‚ because we’ve recommended her‚ she’s also attending workshops to become a Fifa mentor‚ who can mentor other coaches in Africa.”

Ellis now has six months to prepare Banyana for World Cup France 2019‚ where they kick off against Spain on June 8. China and Germany are also in Group B.

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