Mind Sports South Africa President, Amanda Pakade’s first term in office has seen her live up to her personal hashtag – #IWasBornToMakeAnImpact! Indeed an impact was evident in the lives of athletes as soon as she took office.

Pakade was co-opted as President of the non-profit organisation in July 2018 and is celebrating her second year this month.

Coming into the federation, she immediately began to face countless challenges that come along with leading an organisation that solely survives on sponsorships and fundraisers.

The Covid-19 pandemic has been Pakade’s Achilles heel, having to come up with innovative ways to keep the federation financially stable.

Adapting to this “new normal” has seen her and her team convert live events into online tournaments. Securing new deals remains an uphill battle, but they are trying to mitigate this by having continuous meetings with current sponsors to strengthen their relationships.

As woman of faith, Pakade believes that through continuous hard work, there will be a light at the end of the tunnel.

Going forward, she is eager to introduce E-Sports at grassroots level and in various areas around South Africa and the rest of the continent.

Celine Abrahams had a chat with Pakade to unpack her journey thus far:

President, it is an honour to have this opportunity to speak to you. This month (July) you are marking your second term as the President of Mind Sports South Africa. How has your term been so far?

Hi Celine, thank you for the invite! So far, my term has been all about a series of experiences. Some were challenging experiences, and some were amazing experiences. You know, there was lots of traveling, lots of meetings, and lots of groundwork to be done here at home. So, to be honest, I’ve been all over the place, I’ve met amazing people, interesting people, I’ve been to places where I never thought that I will ever reach!

You were announced as President back in 2018, is this something you expected?

To be honest, I didn’t see the role coming to me. I was really shocked…I really didn’t see it coming it was a serious shock for me, but, you know, when it came, I took it with both hands, and I told myself that I was going to run with it! That was it!

What were the first few months like for you?

The first few months were the busiest months of my life, ever! It was really hectic! As I stepped in, immediately I had to travel to Chinese Taipei for site viewing because Taiwan was hosting the 2018 E-Sports World Championships, so I immediately travelled there, and while I was traveling there, here back home, there had to be trials that were happening to select the team that was going to participate at the World Championships.

“I had to, you know, delegate some of the work – my secretary general who is Colin Webster and the Vice-President Johan (van Breda) – those guys came through and they helped a lot. It became teamwork and we all pulled through and things happened.” – Mind Sports South Africa President, Amanda Pakade.

While the team trials were happening, on the other side it was meetings after meetings because I also needed to ensure that I secure the resources to get the team across because remember with Mind Sports South Africa we are a non-profit organisation, so we entirely depend on sponsorships for us to do anything whether at local tournaments or to take even the team across for the championships so that’s when the leadership skills had to come in because I had to, you know, delegate some of the work – my secretary general who is Colin Webster and the Vice-President Johan (van Breda) – those guys came through and they helped a lot. It became teamwork and we all pulled through and things happened.

When you look at some of the athletes’ lives, do you feel that you have lived up to your #IWasBornToMakeAnImpact mindset?

Yes, I do feel like I have lived up to my slogan #IWasBornToMakeAnImpact in an athletes’ life. One of the highlights that I can refer to during those World Champs in 2018, out of over 50 countries that where there, Mind Sports South Africa was the only country that had female representatives. It was not just that Mind Sports South Africa was the only country that had female representatives but one of our females was the flag bearer during the opening ceremony, so to me that alone was, you know, the best highlight.

Last year as well, when we went to Korea for the Eastern E-Sports World Championships, even there we had our female athlete who even shed a tear when she faced some of the E-Sports giants. She had been seeing these guys playing on TV or on social media, she never really thought that one day she would actually be physically in one room with them. Let alone being in one room with them but playing against them. Even though she knew it was going to be difficult playing against them, but the experience was good for her.

What have been the biggest challenges for you?

Biggest challenge for me has been, you know, raising enough funds or resources. Being a non-profit organisation, it really means that we depend entirely on sponsorship or we raise funds through the tournaments, so funding has always been the major issue and it does of course affect lots of things, for example, we don’t really get to have enough training for the team before they go participate at World Championships because obviously we don’t have enough resources, the resources that will have during that time are the resources to ensure that at least the team does go and participate. So that has been the greatest challenge for me other than anything else.

And the most rewarding part of the job?

The most rewarding part of my job is seeing the smiles of the athletes when they leave the country to represent South Africa abroad. The pride of having to represent their country abroad you can tell that it is actually a dream come true. Also having to travel to different countries, seeing how other people live and meeting different people that I never thought I would ever meet in my life – it’s humbling! And, being part of the board meetings where there is over 50 men and we are only two ladies! That attention that you get, it’s quite amazing as well, so we are really blessed. Above everything else, to have an opportunity of knowing E-Sports versus the traditional sports and being one of the people who is able to promote E-Sports, so for me that’s amazing.

With the current global Covid-19 pandemic having put everyone’s plans on hold, how has this affected plans put in place for the year ahead?

Covid-19 has both negative and positive impacts. The negative impact is that we were meant to be taking a team to Israel this year for World Championships so that has been postponed to hopefully next year where we are still going to be able to do so and also our live events where we get to raise some funds, we had to convert those into the online tournaments because now obviously we can’t have public gatherings.

“I feel that there are a lot of people that we need to reach who do not understand what E-Sports is, so this is the moment, this is the time, this is the opportunity for us to make people understand what E-Sports is.” – Pakade speaks on using Covid-19 times to gain more attention for E-Sports.

Positively, I think Mind Sports South Africa and E-Sports are now…we’re going to gain a lot of spectators, we are going to gain attention and people will get to know and understand E-Sports. I feel that there are a lot of people that we need to reach who do not understand what E-Sports is, so this is the moment, this is the time, this is the opportunity for us to make people understand what E-Sports is.

What have you been doing to keep the ball rolling at MSSA?

I’m taking advantage of the media platforms that are there, you know. We’ve been doing Webinar meetings, workshops and also, we’ve been advertising our online matches…I mean tournaments. We’ve been making sure that they go live on Facebook and Instagram, so we are keeping in touch with our athletes, with stakeholders and we are keeping the ball rolling – there’s no time to stop!

Financials can be an issue when it is business as usual, one can only imagine how worse things can get with our current COVID reality.

How have you managed to keep the federation above water during this period?

Keeping the financials for the federation afloat during this period has been the most difficult one. However, all we do, we try to ensure that we strengthen our relationships with the companies that sponsored us previously. Ensuring that we are making them happy because to be honest, seeking new sponsorships at this point in time is not easy for us because companies have not been operating for a while, so it is hard for everyone. This is the time where people are losing jobs and so on because companies are trying to save money and trying to survive. It’s really challenging but I am a woman of faith, so I believe that as along as we keep doing what we do best, we keep ensuring that the tournaments are happening, we keeping our spectators busy then somewhere, somehow, somebody will definitely see the work that we are doing and they will be interested in investing in us.

What would you say is your main focus to ensure the growth of Mind Sports?

The focus is getting to the grassroots where I really want to introduce E-Sports there and build clubs in those areas outside Gauteng – KZN, Eastern Cape, Mpumalanga, Limpopo, Western Cape, and also outside South Africa, we are looking at other African countries to ensure that at least we do have a running African federation. That’s the plan at the moment.

Personally, what other dreams do you have that you would like to fulfil?

I personally would like to ensure that E-Sports and traditional sports work together here in South Africa because I believe that the two compliment each other, they fall under the same umbrella which is sport. Also, because I am the Vice-President of the E-Sports African federation, for now we are only three countries, so we are looking at ensuring that we develop – currently it’s South Africa, Nigeria and Namibia. We want to reach out to other countries as well.

As woman in a leadership role, what advice would you have for other women who aspire to fill a role such as the one you’re occupying? Especially in a world where skilled women are not scarce but opportunities for them are.

To other women, I would like to say remain positive, be yourself and keep putting in the effort, do not stop. It does not mean because someone is not recognising your efforts then you must stop, no! You keep doing your best, keep giving your best, that will be the only time when someone will notice you and put you in the place where you would like to be. That’s what happened with me. I gave my heart to everything that I did. That’s the kind of person that I am, I believe that I can’t do things halfway, I want to give my heart to everything that I do and I think because of that someone noticed me and they thought I actually deserve this opportunity.

A winner is just a loser who tried one more time!

Looking at the next few years, what progress would you like to see for women in the sporting fraternity?

In the next few years, I would really like to see more females being involved in sports. I would also like to see more females being elevated to places of power. I feel that if a woman can run a home, they can definitely run an organisation and they can definitely run a country. So, for me, it’s really my greatest prayer to see women in places of leadership. You know, I was shocked when I got to Taiwan, the President was a female and the country was running smoothly! Females are able to take on these roles, it’s just that they are not being given a chance to showcase their abilities.

 

Photo 1 Caption: Mind Sports South Africa President, Amanda Pakade’s first term in office has seen her live up to her personal hashtag – #IWasBornToMakeAnImpact! Indeed an impact was evident in the lives of athletes as soon as she took office. Photo: Supplied

Photo 2 Caption: Pakade was co-opted as President of the non-profit organisation in July 2018 and is celebrating her second year this month. Photo: Supplied

Photo 3 Caption: Coming into the federation, she immediately began to face countless challenges that come along with leading an organisation that solely survives on sponsorships and fundraisers. Photo: Supplied

Photo 4 Caption: The Covid-19 pandemic has been Pakade’s Achilles heel, having to come up with innovative ways to keep the federation financially stable. Photo: Supplied

Photo 5 Caption: Adapting to this “new normal” has seen her and her team convert live events into online tournaments. Securing new deals remains an uphill battle, but they are trying to mitigate this by having continuous meetings with current sponsors to strengthen their relationships. Photo: Supplied