A good year for Percy Tau, Benni McCarthy and Banyana

The women's team did best of all, now they're serious contenders

23 December 2018 - 00:05 By SAZI HADEBE

The year 2018 has been a memorable one for SA's Senior National Women's team Banyana Banyana and their coach Desiree Ellis.
In fact, since Banyana started participating in international football in 1993, there's been no greater stride than the one made this year by this team. The remarkable results earned by Banyana this year culminated in them winning a place in next year's Women's Fifa World Cup in France, where they will face Spain, China and Germany.
To some, Banyana's qualification for the World Cup was no surprise given the steady progress made by Ellis since assuming the role of guide after the 2016 Olympics.
Ellis, 55, was given a caretaker role from October 2016 and was only appointed coach towards the end of February this year. This was history in the making as Ellis, a former Banyana captain, became the first local female coach to be given this role.
By the time Ellis was appointed, she had already proved to be more than capable after winning the 2017 Cosafa Cup. When she was appointed, Safa president Danny Jordaan gave her the mandate of qualifying for the Africa Women's Cup of Nations (Awcon), the 2019 World Cup and Tokyo 2020.
Of the three boxes, Ellis has already ticked two with flying colours, with qualification for Tokyo 2020 expected to be sealed sometime next year.
Ellis defended the Cosafa Cup in Port Elizabeth in September where Linda Motlhalo was Banyana's outstanding player.
More outstanding performances from Ellis's team came last month when they qualified for the World Cup by beating Mali 2-0 in the Awcon semifinals in Ghana.
Banyana were unlucky not to be crowned African champions for the first time, suffering a 4-3 penalty shoot-out defeat to perennial rivals Nigeria. By that time, though, Ellis and her team had already won the hearts of many South Africans, including those who had previously paid scant attention to their efforts.
One thing football-loving South Africans agree on is that their most prized genius, Percy Tau, deserves to play in one of the most affluent leagues in the world.
Tau has been on top form for both Bafana Bafana and Belgian second-division outfit Royal Union this year.
The former Mamelodi Sundowns striker is on loan to Union from English club Brighton & Hove Albion - the club that spent over R50m prising him away from the Brazilians in July this year.
At Union, Tau has been in scintillating form, helping his team to qualify for the semifinal of the Belgian Cup for the first time in over 100 years.
In 18 starts for Union in all competitions, Tau has contributed with seven goals and several assists while showing everyone he's on a wavelength all his own.
In less than two seasons coaching in SA's top flight, Bafana Bafana's all-time leading scorer Benni McCarthy (41) is proving to be a shrewd tactician at Cape Town City where he won one of the two cup finals he reached.
City won the MTN8 in September this year beating SuperSport United, the club that denied them the same trophy in McCarthy's first few months as a head coach last season.
To further cap a brilliant year, McCarthy earned his Uefa Pro Coaching Licence - the highest world-recognised qualification in football - in November.
City may not have started the season well in the league this season, but glimpses of McCarthy's touch in their performances have led to pundits predicting he will, at some point in the near future, guide Bafana.
Often, foreign born coaches leave our shores without having won a single trophy.
That list does not, however, include Zambian-born Wedson Nyirenda who has already bagged the Telkom Knockout with Baroka FC just five months after making his debut as a head coach in SA.
Nyirenda wrote this history last month when he led his Limpopo team to their maiden silverware, beating a much fancied Orlando Pirates 4-2 in the penalty shoot-out following a pulsating 120 minutes of football with the two sides locked at 2-2.

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