Banyana feel the ‘heartache’ at letting down the nation with Olympics exit

10 April 2024 - 09:20
By Mahlatse Mphahlele
Dejected Banyana Banyana players after the 0-0 draw with Nigeria at Loftus.
Image: Samuel Shivambu/BackpagePix Dejected Banyana Banyana players after the 0-0 draw with Nigeria at Loftus.

Desiree Ellis battled to hold back tears when she talked about the profound disappointment of failing to lead Banyana to this year's Olympic Games in France.

Banyana were held to a 0-0 draw by the Super Falcons of Nigeria at Loftus on Tuesday night, meaning they lost the final stage qualifier 1-0 on aggregate and failed to qualify for the Olympics for the second time in succession.

Ellis admitted Banyana disappointed the country. 

“It is difficult to explain because of the expectation that, not just we had on ourselves, but the rest of the country had on us,” she said in her post-match press conference. 

“We felt we disappointed everybody, we felt if we scored one goal we might have scored the second or the third because we were the team on the ascendancy.

“We knew they were going to play the long ball because they did that effectively in the first game and we handled that very well.

“We needed to put our foot on the ball a lot more. I don’t think you can explain the disappointment. You hurt so badly inside that you almost don’t know what to say.” 

The turn of events might bring the future of long-serving Ellis into the spotlight. The coach said she does not know if she will be around for the next Olympic qualifiers. 

“It is always about the team first. I can't give you an answer about that far ahead right now.

“The reason I said I am not thinking too far ahead is that we have a lot of Fifa dates coming up in between, and hopefully a Wafcon [Women's Africa Cup of Nations], because the one thing the team would like to do is defend [their 2022 Wafcon title]. It is always easy to win but it is difficult to defend it.

“We need to consistently have regular camps and play against good opposition because that’s the only way you can test yourself and the team can grow.

“No disrespect to some of the teams on the continent. Nigeria are ranked number one, we are ranked number two. We have to make sure that when we go to Cosafa Cup, we take a team that will get the experience to bring back and add value.

“The Cosafa Cup is the first level tournament where players go, do well and you bring them in.” 

Banyana captain Refiloe Jane also spoke about the squad's disappointment but said they will have to come back and try again. 

“When the final whistle went it was huge disappointment. Heartache. This group worked so hard to be where it is today and it’s been a long journey to be where we are. To experience such disappointment at the last hurdle hurts. 

“But we will have to lift our heads up and try again like we did before. Today is a sad day but tomorrow is a new day and we will focus on what lies ahead. There are lessons in failure. We will have to come back strong. 

“We can’t sulk like it is the end of the world. We missed out in the previous edition and we came back stronger. We don't know what lies ahead of us but this is our chance again to rebuild and come back stronger.”

Banyana reached the 2012 and 2016 Olympics and the World Cups in 2019 and 2023, becoming the first South African senior team to progress past a World Cup group stage at the latter in Australasia.