Waving placards and banners, students, staff and members of the public danced, sang and ululated to cheer the five players – goalkeeper Regirl Ngobeni, defender Bongeka Gamede, midfielders Amogelang Motau and Sibulele Holweni, and forward Noxolo Cesane – as well as coach Thinasonke Mbuli to the stage in front of the Jakes Gerwel Hall.
The six, together with UWC alumnae – Kaylin Swart, Nomvula Kgoale, Jermaine Seoposenwe, Thalea Smidt, Kholosa Biyana, and Thembi Kgatlana
– were in the South African national team that beat Morocco 2-1 on 23 July to lift the TotalEnergies Women’s Africa Cup of Nations for the first time.
UWC Rector and Vice-Chancellor, Professor Tyrone Pretorius, said the players and the coach have made the University very proud, and that he was glad that the jubilant community had turned up in big numbers to celebrate with them.
“UWC makes champions in the classroom and outside of the classroom. Mr Mandla Gagayi, UWC Director of Sport, just told me that in that Banyana Banyana squad of 23 players, 50% of them came from UWC. Today we are very proud. We say to our Banyana Banyana African Champions, well done. You have brought honor to UWC.”
Gagayi revealed that the success story of the University contribution to the national set-up did not come by chance. “Remember in 2016 when we said we will deliberately put our resources together to develop women in sport, we were not just talking because the results show today.”
He said, given the history of this University, UWC have always been looked at as underdogs. “But the strides we have taken today. Actually, we are the leaders in terms of giving opportunities to women in sport. I think we are one of the unrivalled universities in South Africa because if you look at the numbers of the players in the national team (five current players and six alumni) that is something that can never be taken away from UWC as leaders in terms of giving opportunities to women in sport.”
Gagayi added that UWC was bringing on board the best in the business. “If you look at our coaches, our head coach is an assistant coach to Banyana Banyana, and her assistant coach is a CAF instructor. So, we are not just bringing anyone to UWC. We want to bring quality so that students can get to experience the best coaching they can get.”
Gagayi also noted that UWC was doing well in the Hollywoodbets Super League, and were the first team to beat Mamelodi Sundowns, the African Champions. The University also has a team in the Sasol League Western Cape and is supporting other local clubs to succeed. “Our dream is that we don’t only want to have a UWC team playing in the national league. We have partnered with RV United of Khayelitsha and want to push them to get into the Hollywoodbets as well. And after that we will push another team because we want the Western Cape to be the hub of women in sport, especially in football.”
Coach Mbuli said the girls have worked so hard to achieve the success, and it shows that they are in the right direction as the team.
Motau noted that as a player to come home and to see all these students backing them was fantastic and overwhelming. “I hope this is not the last time and I hope that every time we play our leagues the students will show up and support us because that is where it starts. We would not be here if it was not because we were playing our league week in and week out. And to see this kind of support is amazing and we are grateful for it.”
For more images of the homecoming of UWC's Women's Africa Cup of Nations winners (all by Ruvan Boshoff/UWC Media), see the Gallery below: