Get To Know: Thandi Merafe

by | Aug 11, 2015

How does it feel to be nominated for gsport Woman of the Year?

Wow, I am honoured just to be nominated for such prestigious awards and to be in one of the biggest categories, is the cherry on top. I feel it is a validation of the work I have been doing, the level of commitment, the passion I have for my work and the drive I have to always pursuit excellence.

I am grateful for the nomination, I am humbled by the validation it symbolises and I am honoured to be shortlisted with the women in all the categories, as I believe each every one of them is deserving of the recognition, and to be counted amongst them is an absolute honour.

How did you get into sports media?

I studied LAW at Wits University, and whilst there I was recruited to play football for the Wits Ladies. Which turned out to be a life-changing move on my part because, as a result, I had the honour and privilege to represent my country in the “World Student Games, Beijing 2000”, the second biggest sporting event next to the Olympics.

I was impressed with the level of organisation, coordination, the magnitude and most of all the success of the event and that is when I changed my career path and stated working towards sports administration.

What is it like working for a globally recognised brand like Orlando Pirates?

I think the general consensus amongst South Africans is that Orlando Pirates is one of the biggest brands the country has to offer, but I have been blessed with opportunities to travel all over the world Europe, Asia and Africa.

It is only when one travels to these far-off places that one truly understands the magnitude of the brand that is Orlando Pirates, it is colossal and I am proud to be associated with the brand.

The Pirates mantra is Perseverance, Innovate, Resilience, Accountability, Tenacity, Excellence and Success.

This is the Pirates way from our Chairman, Dr. Irvin Khoza to my Marketing Manager, the staff is made to understand that when you work for Pirates you are a brand ambassador and as such you are expected to give 100%, strive for excellence in all you do and endeavour to achieve greatness.

This approach has inspired me to have a high work ethic and understand that in the greater scheme of things, I have only the moment ahead of me to work towards leaving a positive contribution to the great legacy that is Orlando Pirates.

What has been your biggest career highlight to date?

I have had a few career highlights which I think have all contributed to the professional that I am today:

* Being part of the 2008 PSL delegation to the Euro 2008. The findings we put together from that expedition shaped the PSL into one of the top three Football leagues in the world and are the basis of the Leagues Compliance Manual;

  • Thandi Merafe 2009 FIFA Confederations Cup, Ellis Park –  my first major tournament as a Media Officer, I was inexperienced and thrust into a situations where I either sank or swam;
  • 2010 FIFA World Cup, Soccer City – the World Cup is the biggest football tournament, I excelled there because I understood the fact that it was my “National Duty” to excel, failure was not an option especially because the entire world zoomed in on SA to see if we would pull it off
  • 2011 to date FIFA Media Officer: I am the only South African or local Media officer (male or female) who has had the honour of receiving a FIFA call-up. I have had two FIFA call ups to serve at the FIFA Woman’s World Cup in Germany and the Under 19 FIFA Woman’s World Cup in Azerbaijan (East Europe). Working for FIFA is a game changer because I quickly realised that this Global giant in Football administration redefined the term “service excellence”, the lessons I have learnt there have and will continue to benefit me throughout my life
  • 2013 to date: Exploring the African Continent with my team Orlando Pirates FC has been truly a blessed experience. I have had the opportunity to experience the different and diverse cultures that make up this beautiful continent of ours. I can honestly say “I am African”. Some of the countries I have visited include, Egypt, Senegal, Mali, Tunisia, The Congo, Mozambique to name a few. The one fundamental  similarity we have as Africans is the “Spirit of Ubuntu”. I have found that this principle is at the core of our identity, it transcends borders, cultures, war, famine and any strife imaginable. I feel privileged to have both learnt and experienced that fact.

How do you deal with challenges that come your way?

By analysing any given situation in order to understand the problem in its entirety and not just what is obvious at first glance, thereafter formulate a strategy and then follow through.

The trick is understanding that there are different ways of resolving issue, the key is knowing or choosing the right strategy for dealing with the challenge one is faced with.

What is your advice to young women who want to work in sport?

Education, education, education! The right qualifications give you a fighting chance, have an open mind and treat every situation as an opportunity to learn.

Amass all the knowledge and experience you possibly can, because that will equip you to deal with challenges and help you excel in your chosen field.

But most importantly, believe in yourself!

What can we do to raise the profile of women’s sport in SA?

These awards are a good start but quite frankly I would like to see more projects at grass-roots levels, aimed at elevating the spirit and aspirations of girls and young women.

We need to reach our girls at Primary school level, before the world teaches them to doubt themselves.

Most importantly, we need to follow through at high school level so that we produce young women who know exactly which steps to take at Tertiary level, and beyond, in order to achieve their respective goals. #SupportOurGirls

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