South African football legend Desiree Ellis made her international debut in 1993 at the remarkable age of 30; a time normally considered a retiring point in professional football. In her first game for the South Africa national women’s football team, nicknamed Banyana Banyana (Girls Girls), against Swaziland, she even scored a hat-trick.
The following year she became captain of the side and subsequently led Banyana until her retirement in April 2002.
A midfielder, Ellis led the way in helping raise the profile of women’s football in South Africa. When the country hosted the African Women’s Championship in 2000, she skippered the side to a runners-up finish. Ellis was given recognition for her services to soccer in the same year when she received a Silver Presidential Sports Award. In 2002 she led Banyana to the Cosafa Cup title. During her time in the South Africa team she enjoyed tremendous success, winning 23 matches, losing just seven and drawing two. Ellis has more recently made a successful transition from player to pundit and can be seen as a soccer commentator on local television station e-TV.
Ellis is one of the few individuals to have captained a football team for an entire decade, playing 32 matches and winning 23 of those – a win rate of 72%.
Her standing in South African football was made clear when she was chosen to be an ambassador for the FIFA World Cup when it was hosted in her home country in 2010.