UWC director shares his thoughts on grassroots and university sports

UWC director of sport Mandla Gagayi, front row centre, pictured with the university’s women’s football side in 2020.

Mandla Gagayi, a Kuils River resident, is one of the country’s most experienced and decorated university sports administrators.

The UWC sports director was last year appointed to the South African Sports Confederation and Olympic Committee (Sascoc) policy development commission, as well as Confederation of University and College Sports Association (Cucsa) dispute resolution committee.

He was also appointed head of the South African team that took part in the 2019 Student Games in Napoli, Italy . The list goes on and on.

So, who is Mandla Gagayi? Born in Molteno in the Eastern Cape, the UWC and Nelson Mandela University graduate is married with two children. He is the first born with two brothers and two sisters.

“I am driven by the will to do good for those around me and help them to realise their full potential (I support the underdog),” he said.

He took time and shared his thoughts on a range of sport-related topics, including the importance of grassroots and schools sport, with the Athlone News.

He said his role at UWC is to develop and drive a strategy for the university’s sport, to ensure that they remain competitive within the higher education sport environment.

UWC director of sport Mandla Gagayi

“I manage and support people in the department to ensure that the strategy is implemented effectively. UWC has always recognised the importance of sport within a university. My mandate was therefore to promote the winning culture through sport in line with the university’s ethos of providing opportunities to those that were previously denied such opportunities. Our goal is to always see ourselves competing against the best in South Africa and the world, never forgetting where we come from but never allowing our past to hold us back,” he said.

The former Rhodes University director of sport said he always wanted to see young men and women experiencing sport better than he did during his time.

“I want them to take advantage of opportunities that are available within sport, something that I never had.”

“Therefore, my proudest moments are when I see a young person develop from being a student athlete to becoming a successful person in life. I feel even more proud when a former student meets me on the street to thank me and my colleagues for all the tools that we gave him/her to become successful in life.”

He said South Africa can become a serious competitor in the world if all those involved in sport focus on grassroots development across sporting codes and to ensure that there are adequate sporting facilities in our communities. He also emphasised the importance of school sport, saying it needs to be revived because that is where the young talent is nurtured.

“Our role as sport administrators is to provide an enabling environment for young people to excel. Whatever political differences we may have, that must never take the opportunities away from young people to play sport in a safe environment,” he said.