Desiree Ellis, the former captain and now coach of South Africa’s national women’s football team, Banyana Banyana, spoke about her book, Magic: Desiree Ellis from Salt River to the 2023 World Cup, in Salt River last week.
The event, attended by about 30-odd guests, was organised by the Salt River Heritage Society.
Magic: Desiree Ellis from Salt River to the 2023 World Cup, which is written by sports journalist and author Luke Alfred, was released in May.
Sitting on a panel with FC Kapstadt chairman Zaid Omar and the coach of Salt River Blackpool Football Club’s under-10 girls team, Gasant Abarder, Ms Ellis, 60, of Johannesburg, spoke about her book and fielded questions from the guests.
Ms Ellis was born in Heideveld, grew up in Hanover Park and went to school in Salt River, first at Dryden Street Primary and later at Salt River High School.
Last year, she led the women’s team to Morocco, where it won the Women’s African Cup of Nations title, beating the host nation 2-1 in the final. This year, at the Women’s World Cup in New Zealand and Australia, she helped her team progress past the group stages becoming the first team from South Africa to do so in a football world cup.
Ms Ellis said she wanted her book to give people hope. “I want to say, no matter where you come from, if you have a dream, pursue it with everything that you have, and where you come from should not define you, and your dreams are valid.”
Her book looks back on her childhood and her early dreams of becoming a football star. It tells how her mother Natalie Ellis, a seamstress, made her kit and her father, Ernest Ellis, ferried her to her games.
She played for Athlone Celtic and Spurs Women’s FC in Wynberg before going on to play for the national team.
Ms Ellis thanked the SRHS for organising the event as well as the mural of her in Salt River (“Heritage group calls for rethink on Salt River murals,” Southern Suburbs Tatler, September 30, 2021).
“I am blessed to be able to witness all of this,” she said.
SRHS chairman Lutfi Omar said Ms Ellis was just one of many sporting heroes in Salt River. “Our stories we share are not only for the Salt River community. It can be for lessons shared worldwide.”