Banyana coach Ellis frustrated as Caf dallies on 2024 Wafcon dates

19 June 2024 - 15:14
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Banyana Banyana coach Desiree Ellis.
Banyana Banyana coach Desiree Ellis.
Image: Charle Lombard/Gallo Images

Banyana Banyana coach Desiree Ellis is frustrated there has been no confirmation from the Confederation of African Football (Caf) on this year's Women's Africa Cup of Nations (Wafcon) will be staged.

Banyana, who won the last Wafcon in Morocco in 2022, will defend their trophy as that country hosts the tournament again this week.

The 2022 Wafcon served as qualifier for the 2023 Fifa Women's World Cup in Australasia, where Banyana became the first senior football team to reach a World Cup knockout stage.

Accepting a R2m cheque from TymeBank as reward for that achievement in Rosebank, Johannesburg on Tuesday, Ellis said the South African Football Association (Safa) and Banyana are waiting for Caf to announce the date of the 2024 Wafcon. 

Defending champions South Africa are among the 12 qualified teams for the Wafcon with Nigeria, Morocco, Zambia, Ghana, Tunisia, Mali, Algeria, Senegal, Democratic Republic of Congo, Botswana and Tanzania.

With Nigeria and Zambia participating in this year's Women's Olympic football tournament in Paris from July 25 to August 10, Caf may only find space to squeeze the Wafcon later this year or early next year.

But the wait has proved to be too long for Ellis, who cannot finalise her plans for the tournament without knowing the dates. 

“We haven't received any confirmation yet,” Ellis said of the 2026 Wafcon.

“So all we're doing we're going ahead with what we normally do — preparing for different Fifa dates and getting ready for a possible Wafcon.

“We're hoping to find out soon. I think all of us [qualified teams] we're hoping to find out as soon as possible what's going to happen because it would be fantastic if you knew so that you're able to prepare.”

Ellis said Banyana, despite not knowing the date of Afcon, have been using all the Fifa dates available to play friendly matches, including the two away to Senegal last month where a team consisting mainly of locally-based players won and drew in two matches.

“We had a fantastic camp in Senegal. We were looking at giving more [new] players an opportunity to make sure we get the mix of youth and experience right again. That's why we took those players with us and I think they were tested well.”

Thanking TymeBank for their honouring their promise of a financial reward made when Banyana travelled to the World Cup in July last year, Ellis said the reward was important many of the Banyana players who do not have consistent stream of income as Safa's league is not professional yet. 

“I think being rewarded and being gifted says we're doing well. It's a fantastic initiative and a great reward but ultimately you want corporates to come on board [permanently] for women in sport.”

Chief economic officer at TymeBank Cheslyn Jacobs said: “We are equally pleased our customers played their part in helping attain our goal of ensuring that our heroes are recognised and get a reward for their efforts.”

The bank confirmed that about 42 Banyana members, including supporting staff, benefited from their reward. 

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