UWC beat Tuks 4-3 on penalties in the Monday evening final in their own backyard to become only the second university in South Africa after Tshwane University of Technology to have won Varsity Football in both men and women categories [UJ became the third a few hours later following the men's final.]. The university men’s football team took home the trophy in 2015.
Boasting several Banyana Banyana stars in its ranks, UWC went to the final as the overwhelming favourites, having scored 12 goals in four matches, including four in their semi-final win against Wits. And they had won all three group games. But Tuks had home-ground advantage.
In a tournament in which UWC’s Khanya Xesi walked away with the Golden Boot Award, the score in the final was goalless after 90 minutes. The clash went to a penalty shootout where UWC emerged victorious, thanks to Sinegugu Zondi’s sudden death winning penalty after the two sides were locked at 3-3 after the first 10 penalties.
UWC Rector and Vice-Chancellor, Professor Tyrone Pretorius, congratulated the team and said the win by the women’s football team was very satisfying in many respects. “Firstly, we offer the best of both worlds for our students - a world-class tertiary education and the platform to reach for the stars on the sporting field,” Prof Pretorius said.
“Secondly, this achievement is due to a deliberate strategy to empower women as coaches and administrators of our women’s sports teams (the coach, Thinasonke Mbuli, and the team’s administrator, Elmien Cloete, are both women). We are delighted by their success, but we are not surprised since the UWC Women’s Football team has performed well in the top women’s football league in the country.
WATCH: THE TEAM'S HOMECOMING
“My heartfelt congratulations to our players, our coach, and the support staff at UWC Sport. I am also grateful for the hard work by our Director of Sport Administration, Mr Mandla Gagayi, and our Deputy Vice-Chancellor for Student Development and Support, Professor Pamela Dube, for laying the groundwork for this kind of success by our student athletes.”
Professor Pamela Dube, Deputy Vice-Chancellor: Student Development and Support, said the university is not surprised by the victory: “As UWC we had absolute confidence in them bringing the trophy back home, and we are so proud of this sterling achievement. The excitement was palpable at the airport when we welcomed them back, in song and dance even under masks and social distancing and all! They have brought back that very much needed unifying sense of UWC identity and belonging in student experience, and for that, we’re immensely grateful and very proud of them.”
UWC Director of Sport, Mandla Gagayi, added that the victory means a lot for young people. “Our women’s football victory represents hope for all young people never to give up on their dreams. Having lost the previous four finals, we did not give up, and our persistence was rewarded.
“I am glad that all these young women will have their names on the history books of UWC as the first UWC women’s team ever to win Varsity Football. The challenge for the up and coming players is now to defend this title and ensure it doesn’t leave UWC any time soon.”
Coach Mbuli said the success means a lot for the team as some members have played several finals and knew the heartache of being second best. “It was the second time for me and third time and fourth time for so many of the players. So we had a group of players who knew the occasion and knew how it felt to lose in the finals. We lost to TUT on penalty shootouts in 2019, and we didn’t want to go back there.”
Mbuli said UWC has been using the same team for USSA (University Sport South Africa) Championships, for the Hollywoodbets Super League and for Varsity Women's Football, and that has given them the edge. “The majority of our players are students so it makes it easy for us to pause one tournament and focus on the other. We also had a good pre-season with the same team, and the players wanted this tournament more. I don’t mean they didn’t want it in the other seasons, but in terms of attitude, performance and playing for one another, that really worked for us.”
Mbuli added that the team was grateful for the support from the entire University community, “and we hope this victory will be a motivation for the remaining games in the league”.
UWC'S ROAD TO THE TITLEBeat UJ 3-1
Beat NWU 1-0
Beat UL 5-0
Beat Wits 4-0 (semifinal)
Beat Tuks 4-3 on penalties after 0-0 (final)
Khanya Xesi – 5 (pictured left)
UWC'S TOURNAMENT SCORERS
Molatelo Kobo, Amogelang Motau – both 2
Janice Smith, Tshegofatso Senanya, Tiffany Kortjie - all 1