Up Close with … Elsie Ernesta, first Seychellois woman to coach a men’s football team-‘It’s no big deal, it’s a challenge’


Elsie at another workshop in South Africa

As I watched the sports news on SBC television one day and saw her talking about her new challenge, I wanted to know what pushed her to accept the coaching job with the Quincy FC, who have been promoted to the Barclays league division one after winning the second division title last year.

Does Elsie has the mental and physical ability to motivate the male players and can she instill discipline in them to work for glory?

“For me it is no big deal. It’s a challenge and I will give it my best shot,” said Elsie confidently.
Growing up on La Digue, she has always been into sports.
“There was a big yard next to my house and after school and on weekends my childhood friends and neighbours gathered on the yard to play rounders, volleyball and football.”

She was staying with her aunty, grandmother and two older brothers at that time as her mother was working abroad.
A very active person, Elsie’s favourite subject at school was Physical Education (PE) – no surprise there – and confessed she wanted to be a PE teacher.

“However, when it was time to choose a career I opted for tourism, a one-year course in restaurant and bar at the hotel school. But during my school days, I represented La Digue in athletics and long jump was my specialty,” she added.
She also played volleyball and upon coming to Mahé, she joined teams like Mont Fleuri, Mont Buxton, SYAA, St Louis and Cascade.

“In those days, it was all about volleyball as there was no women’s football here,” she said.
When she completed her tourism course, she did not go to work in the tourism field but instead worked as a clerk at Hari Builders – a local building firm -- from 1993 to 2000.

In late 1990s, the long-awaited football tournament for women kicked off in Seychelles and Elsie did not take long to join a team.

“At first, there were seven-a-side tournaments and when they introduced 11-a-side competitions, I played as striker with Foresters FC and later moved to Rovers FC,” she said.

She did shine and show her talents on these teams. And she won the best women’s footballer and top scorer awards in 1999 when she was playing for Rovers FC.

When she joined the United Sisters, she had to sometimes take on the role of player/coach. It was with this team that she won the best coach title. 

More doors started to open for this young star when one day she saw an advert offering a diploma in Physical Education.
“This was like a blessing and I had to choose between my job as a clerk and PE. There was no second thought there, I quitted.’

But this diploma was not enough, she wanted to follow another course, a high level one. This time she got to do a BA in Physical Education in Cuba. It was a five-year course, so far away from home.

“Going to Cuba was the best decision I made and it was a great experience.”
She could not let this opportunity pass her by.

Elsie wanted to do what she does best – practicing sports as she has been doing that all Elsie formed part of a technical study group in Zimbabwe (2011)her life.

“There people take football seriously, so different from here and the supporters are behind their teams.”
“I was selected in the first eleven to play for my university and I always wore my Seychelles T-shirt when I played.”
She got a top scorer trophy for the African continent football tournament in Cuba.

“There were people from over 72 countries in that university, a diversity of cultures and there were also several tournaments.”

When there is a football match the stadium is full and you feel excited. “Once I scored a goal straight from a corner kick and the supporters ran onto the pitch to cheer.”

Being in Cuba was also a boost to my personality and it helped make me feel more confident.
Elsie’s favourite female player of all time is Marta Vieira da Silva, a Brazilian who has been named Fifa world player of the year five times and even came here to play two friendly matches some six years back.

“Marta is amazing and I believe she is one of the best female soccer players of all time.”
When it comes to male teams she is a Manchester United fan.

“I love Ferguson (Alex) – the football club’s coach. His strategies are good and he believes greatly in the young talents at his disposal, that’s a good thing.”

And of course her best footballer also comes from this team and it’s winger Nani (Luis Carlos Almeida Da Cunha). “Wow! This guy is damn good,” she said.

”But locally, I support the La Passe and Anse Reunion football clubs. What did you expect? I come from La Digue!”
Seychelles Football Federation (SFF) technical director Ulric Mathiot said Elsie has got all the qualifications to become a first division team coach.

She is among the 20 coaches in Seychelles who have the Licence ‘B’ qualification – the highest coaching licence in Africa -- and is the only Seychellois woman holding such a qualification.

She has got the personality to coach a men’s team. Respect is important and so is discipline… she has to prove herself and this is a big opportunity for her.

Elsie is now working as development officer of women’s football with the SFF. She also gets to coach young footballers. Thumbs up to Elsie and all the best with Quincy FC!

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