DSTV Premier League club, Stellenbosch FC’s Administrative Assistant, Ghouwa Manuel is breaking the glass ceilings in the male-dominated industry and is hoping to lead by example to encourage more women to pursue their dreams of working in the sport industry.

Growing up in a sports orientated family, Manuel’s interest for football began when she supported her younger brother who played in the youth ranks.

She then got involved in playing the sport at school and found that she had a great passion for the game.

Eager to learn the ins and outs of football, Manuel continued to play for Glen Eagles FC and then Maties FC where she was also part of the executive committee as the secretary.

It sparked her interest to do admin professionally as an occupation, admitting that it was never her ambition to play sport professionally due to the lack of opportunities for women at the time.

Speaking with Celine Abrahams, Manuel reveals the biggest highlight of her career so far and shares advice to young girls eager to work in sports administration.

Ghouwa, thank you for taking time out to chat! Over the past few months our lives have changed due to the global Covid-19 outbreak. What does your new normal look like?

Thanks to you Celine for giving me the opportunity. It’s an honour.

New normal for me is actually not new. I feel during this time we started to see and learn new things but it’s sometimes things that should have been in place. Yes, we’re not active in public spaces as much and traveling may be restricted but now is the time to see what is important in life and not what has changed. 

Football was on pause as the world came to a standstill. What did you get up to during those months? How did you keep yourself motivated?

As you know when football is taken out of our lives, we feel a big hole. However, I had the privilege of having a job and still had to focus on my duties and tasks at hand. That is the biggest blessing of all. I believe that is also the best motivation for a lot of us. But I used the opportunity to have more quality time with family, myself and also tried to keep active and fit. As you know we’ve always had a busy schedule.

Despite the negatives that came with the pandemic, what are some positives that you are taking away from the year?

Actually, I would say NOTHING should be negative in life because there is a reason for everything. Yes, I also lost people in my life that I know because of COVID-19. But I believe that God set out a time for all of us, no matter what the circumstances. Therefore, I always want to stay positive in all kinds of challenges. My positives during the pandemic is that a lot of the people came out to support each other even in our own homes.

Let us take a step back and talk about your journey. You are currently the Administrative Assistant for the DSTV Premiership side, Stellenbosch FC. Where does your passion for sports come from?

“I played for Glen Eagles FC and then Maties FC, both local clubs in the Cape Winelands District. When I played for Maties I also had the opportunity to be part of the executive committee as the secretary.” – Stellenbosch FC Administrative Assistant, Ghouwa Manuel.

I have a sport orientated family. However, if you look at football specifically, I started by supporting my little brother playing youth football. I also started playing at school and found that I actually have a great passion for the game. This inspired me to want to know more. I have put all my energy and time into being part of football in Stellenbosch. I played for Glen Eagles FC and then Maties FC, both local clubs in the Cape Winelands District. When I played for Maties I also had the opportunity to be part of the executive committee as the secretary. That was where I had the taste of what it is I actually desire to do professionally as an occupation. And that’s where I realized I want to be in sports, even if it is the business side of it.

Please tell us more about your transition from playing the game to working in admin.

As I mentioned above, I had the opportunity to be part of the committee at Maties. I knew where I was heading after fulfilling those specific roles. It was never really my ambition to play the sport professionally. At the stage at which I started playing the game, my interest was in the game itself not the prospect of doing it professionally. Also, when I played, there were not as many opportunities as there are today. Women’s football has grown immensely over the past couple of years with endless opportunities to pursue careers, especially in the international space or through scholarships. Even though I felt that the opportunities didn’t necessarily come my way I never discouraged any of the ladies I played with who aspired to play the game professionally. I also love being behind the scenes, hence my role now, LOL, so I would motivate my friends who were eager to build a career in football and keep them motivated.

In your opinion, why is there a limited number of females in administration departments, especially in the sports industry?

“However, as I have worked along men for some time now, I also believe they are great motivators and protectors.” – Manuel on working with men as a woman in sport.

Well, because it’s male dominated, it seems like a big challenge for some women as we sometimes think we can never be more proactive in their line of dominance. However, as I have worked along men for some time now, I also believe they are great motivators and protectors. Therefore, if you as a woman believe you are able to do the work do not limit yourself or undermine your potential, stand firm and take every opportunity you get and do what you love… Be a Queen in sports!

What can women who are currently in this department do to encourage more young girls to see this as a viable career path?

All we can do is stand firm, present ourselves respectfully and also most importantly present ourselves with pride. We need to show others that we never give up. We believe in ourselves and are open to learn every day.

Which women in sports admin inspire you and why?

All of them. Women who support one another inspire me as we all embark on our journeys with confidence and integrity.

What advice would you give to a young girl who is eager to make her mark in the sport industry across various departments?

Stay focused on your goal, face challenges with confidence and keep on working hard. You may think you do not have the potential, but the little you know can make a big difference. You can, if you believe.

What are your biggest highlights of your career so far?

The fact that I am working for Stellenbosch FC is a highlight of my life, because I’ve always wanted to work for a football club. All the achievements with the club is a journey I enjoyed. We grow each and every day.

Where would you like to see yourself in the next five years?

Successful in my career. Also growing into being a woman in sport who is a leader and learning the skill to help others to grow too.