UWC hosts special homecoming for Banyana Banyana stars

Hundreds of students came out to Jakes Gerwel hall on the main campus to show their support and admiration for not only Banyana Banyana, but their fellow students. Five of the WAFCON winning squads are studying at the university. Banyana assistant coach, Thinasonke Mbuli, is also UWC Women’s football head coach.

The University of the Western Cape (UWC) hosted a special homecoming for their very own Banyana Banyana stars. Picture: Cato Louw/EWN.

CAPE TOWN - It was a proud moment for a proud university when the University of the Western Cape (UWC) hosted a special homecoming for their very own Banyana Banyana stars on Tuesday. The players lifted the Women’s Africa Cup of Nations trophy for the first time, just over a week ago.

Hundreds of students came out to the Jakes Gerwel hall on the university's main campus to show their support and admiration for not only Banyana Banyana, but also for their fellow students. Five of the WAFCON winning squad are studying at the university. Banyana assistant coach, Thinasonke Mbuli, is also UWC Women’s football head coach.

In fact, Udubs - as the University is fondly known, devotes more financial resources to the women's game than the men's game. That's according to UWC Media Manager Gasant Abarder. “In short, it is an incubator for women's football - contrary to the narrative that in SA there is little love for the women's game," said Abarder.

Banyana goalkeeper Regirl Ngobeni, defender Bongeka Gamede, midfielders Amogelang Motau and Sibulele Holweni, and forward Noxolo Cesane were greeted with cheers and posters saying: "You made UWC proud!"

UWC rector and vice-chancellor, Professor Tyrone Pretorius, said the players and the coach have made the university very proud. He added that he was glad that the jubilant community had turned up in big numbers to celebrate with them.

Mandla Gagayi, director of UWC Sport, proudly wore his UWC colours. He posed with the Banyana players, who were kitted out in the South African team colours, and had their gold medals hanging around their necks.

“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," said Gagayi.

He continued: “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.”

There were 12 UWC-linked students/players in the playing squad. That means that 50% of the squad comes from the university.

UWC Women's FC is the only university playing in the top women's national league (Hollywood Bets League), where they finished third in 2021. They were beaten this season by heavyweights like Mamelodi Sundowns and JVW.

On this, Gagayi added: “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.”

Motau, a third-year BA Admin student and midfielder for Banyana, was smiling from ear to ear, upon seeing her fellow students sporting their Banyana jerseys at the welcoming. She says she hopes the excitement around women’s football will continue as the local season looms: “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”.

UWC Women’s next HollywoodBets Super League fixture is on Saturday, 6 August 2022, against Golden Ladies. Kick-off is at 15:00.