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INTERVIEW | Banyana head coach on challenges posed by Covid-19

Desiree Ellis, Head Coach of South Africa looks on prior to the 2019 FIFA Womens World Cup France group B match between Spain and South Africa at Stade Oceane on June 08, 2019 in Le Havre, France.
Desiree Ellis, Head Coach of South Africa looks on prior to the 2019 FIFA Womens World Cup France group B match between Spain and South Africa at Stade Oceane on June 08, 2019 in Le Havre, France.
Alex Grimm

With all sporting activities having ground to a halt, Banyana Banyana head coach Desiree Ellis says that sport should rightly take a backseat as the health and safety of all South Africans should be a priority in the face of the coronavirus pandemic.

How have you personally been handling the lockdown?

I’m trying to keep fit, then also doing a couple of online courses. But I’ve also been interacting with staff and my players and that’s about it.

How have you been maintaining contact with your players?

I’m just checking up on them on a regular basis through WhatsApp calls and just checking how they’re doing. How they are and also how their families are doing and how their training is going. I think that personal interaction helps.

What are some of the unique problems the pandemic poses to the women’s game in SA?

I think we’re not thinking that far ahead at this moment. Football is taking second place at this moment and it’s just trying to make sure that everybody stays safe and that everyone takes care by practicing good hygiene and social distancing. If we all put in place what the president sent out in the beginning, I think only then can we really concentrate on football.

Has this time allowed you to reflect on your career and make any adjustments as a head coach?

I think it’s a bit insensitive to talk about myself right now with what we’re going through currently in the country. Especially with people not being able to feed their families by outing something on the table. I also come from a community where we’re also lacking a lot and we are also trying to assists where we can. When football starts again and then you can think about how you can move forward and how you can individually improve. But now I think it’s more about just making sure that everyone is safe.

What are your thoughts on when soccer should resume in SA and the safety concerns it poses?

I’ll take heed by what the president of SAFA said and what FIFA said and at the moment health is the most important thing. That will be directed by the medical professionals with regards to when it’s safe to resume. There’s a lot of opinions and we all know football is a game of opinions but at the moment we’ll follow the calls of the medical professionals as well as FIFA.

Lastly, what is your message to all the SA soccer fans out there?

The first message will be to stay at home. To make sure that you all practice good hygiene and also following the social distancing protocols. To the football fraternity also let us stick together, we always say "there’s no I in team" and it’s important that we stick together as a team and that we take care of each other and check up on each other. I think mentally it’s draining for a lot of individuals who are usually out on the field with a ball at their feet. So it’s especially mentally draining and I think it’s important for us to pick up a phone and make sure that a teammate is okay.

I think that is the most important with us as footballers and coaches to make sure that everyone is doing okay. I’m currently doing an online course during this time so I think it’s important for us to come out of this as better people.

I think it’s an important time of reflection for everyone to see how I can be better, how I can do better.

If everyone has that mentality then I think we can go really far.

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