With the kick-off to the new season just around the corner, the festive spirit was on full display for all to see at UWC’s Women’s Football 2022 media launch.
The UWC women’s team finished third out of 14 teams last season. The university is pulling out all the stops to build a championship-winning squad – signing 11 new players. The campus sports bosses have also brought in more support staff to boost the side – a full-time physiotherapist [former player Kayla Richards] and an assistant coach [Leah Masango].
All this in pursuit of the ultimate Christmas box: clinching the top league in South Africa – the Hollywoodbets Super League. The driving force behind this goal is UWC Sports Director, Mandla Gagayi (pictured). He believes this team will be the next league champions.
“We learned some valuable lessons last season. It wasn’t nice for us to postpone matches because we had four call-ups to the South African national team. It is our intention to win the Hollywoodbets Super League this season. Now we want to be in a space where even if we have several players in the national team, we’ll have competitive players that will go and win matches for us.”
Another exciting element this season is UWC’s collaboration with Khayelitsha side RV United. The partnership spells more opportunities for women to play in the country's different tiers of professional football. RV, short for Resilient and Victorious, currently competes in the Sasol League.
Also in attendance at the media launch was Banyana Banyana coach and former South African Women’s Team captain, Desiree Ellis. She spoke passionately about the role learning institutions play in sports.
"It's fantastic to see some players don't just have one or two or three degrees. Some of them are still studying. It's so important that you have an education. You cannot earn a living playing football in South Africa. So you have to have a Plan B and Plan C. And if you don't have that, you will end up phoning people and asking them to buy you some airtime. I take my hat off to universities like UWC that have opened doors for players locally and abroad, showing that you have to prepare for life after football.”
Nelly Mamabolo, UWC footballer and Master’s candidate, received the most rousing applause from the audience, made up mainly of budding young footballers.
“What helps me so much is that the same values, the same principles that I use on the soccer field, I apply to my academics,” UWC's number 6 said. “The commitment, the perseverance, consistency, the hard work, all of that. I want to be successful one day, support my family, support my community. I’m going to go for my PhD, that’s for sure.”
Anyone who knows Gagayi, more popularly referred to as Mr G, knows he is a man of his word. And if he says that the Super League trophy is coming to Udubs, you’d better believe he will move heaven and earth to make it happen.