Ellis: African women’s events news ‘bittersweet’

Ellis spent much of her playing career – and her first 10 years of coaching – at Spurs Ladies

South Africa’s women’s football coach Desiree Ellis has told the BBC that she welcomes the news of a new Women’s Champions League – but regrets the loss of a Women’s Afcon due to coronavirus.

However, women’s football bore the brunt of these tough measures taken as the 2020 edition of the Women’s Cup of Nations was cancelled and in its place, a Caf Women’s Champions League will take place in 2021.

Ellis told BBC Sport Africa that the Champions League was “exciting news.”

“We all asked for new competitions,” she said.

“It may be a good barometer for people to come and scout for players from other countries to join other leagues – and the positive is that there’ll be another club competition.”

But she acknowledged that there were a lot of players who would be disappointed with the loss of the Women’s Africa Cup of Nations.

“A lot of players were looking forward to the 2020 Afcon, and for many, it might have been ‘I want to win it before I hang up my boots’, or ‘this is my last opportunity to really go’, and now it is practically almost three years away,” she said.

“So you’re shattering a few dreams – and opening up a few dreams of teams going to play in the Champions league.

‘Pressure on everyone’

Desiree Ellis
Ellis took over as South Africa boss in 2016

“The women’s game is really important on the continent, especially after the World Cup, so taking away the Afcon will put a lot of dreams on hold.”

Women’s football on the continent has been facing challenges which have been further pronounced with the pandemic’s impact, and at the time of the cancellation, the 2020 edition had no host.

Congo-Brazzaville pulled out as hosts in October 2019 and no new host was announced, despite interests from Nigeria and Equatorial Guinea.

The 12h edition was expanded from an eight-team tournament to a 12-team tournament. Thus, with this cancellation, the next tournament will take place in 2022, therefore doubling as the 2023 World Cup qualifier – which itself has been expanded to have 32 teams – when it kicks off in Australia and New Zealand.

“It puts a lot of pressure on everyone,” she said.

“It would have been fantastic to have that format right now so that you can go and challenge yourself to see how you can plan and prepare.

“We are just hoping that the regional tournaments could happen because that is going to be the saving grace now where you have Cecafa, Wafu, Unifac and Cosafa.’’