Banyana Banyana coach Desiree Ellis may have been calm and demure at the festive welcome celebration for her side at the OR Tambo International Airport on Tuesday, but she also admitted to holding back her tears.
Ellis and her continental conquerors arrived back in South Africa after beating Morocco in Saturday’s Women’s African Cup of Nations final in Rabat to collect their maiden title.
Banyana were greeted by a rapturous crowd in Kempton Park and took in the celebratory mood when they danced on the stage.
The trophy-lifting moment may have been parted with on Saturday, but the emotions remained for Ellis, who thanked the country for their support.
“I was trying not to cry because it is emotional to see the fantastic support and the love they have for this team,” Ellis said.
“We always want to do it for the fans because they’re an important component and Banyana is a much-loved team.
“The one thing we didn’t want to do was to disappoint the fans. We thank them for the support and we feel the love.”
Ellis was Banyana’s captain 22 years ago when they were humbled by Nigeria at the Vosloorus Stadium in that year’s final.
The 2-0 defeat was too much to bear for supporters at the time, who rioted to a point where the game was shelved.
Banyana’s win meant that South Africa and multiple winners Nigeria are the only countries who have tasted success in both the men’s and the women’s continental tournaments.
This was a source of great pride for Ellis.
“You always look back to go forward in terms of what we could have done better,” Ellis said
“It’s a cycle, but a different one, but I’m glad we brought the winner’s medal home for the country.
“I’m glad we’ve become one of two countries whose men’s and women’s teams have won the tournament.”