Netball South Africa’s Head of Communications and Media, Nnusi Gazi, believes that he will continue to elevate the sport through extensive media coverage after gaining experience on the international stage.
In 2019, Gazi travelled with the SPAR Proteas team to the Vitality Netball World Cup in Liverpool where he rubbed shoulders with media managers from all corners of the sphere and took away vital information that he has since implemented.
At the time, the Public Relations practitioner was fresh into his new post at the federation and took every opportunity to learn and grow his network on the global stage.
Outside of his work for NSA, Gazi runs a personal project through his foundation – Nnusi Gazi Foundation – where the focus around child headed households and orphanage homes.
He is also a #PlayYourPart Ambassador under the Brand South Africa umbrella.
Speaking with Celine Abrahams, Gazi chats about where his journey started and his plans to leave a legacy in women’s sport.
Nnusi, it is an honour to have you with us. For those who are not aware of your role in women’s sport, please can you elaborate.
Thank you very much for having me, I feel very honoured and quite special at this very moment.
I am part of the Communications Department at Netball South Africa and I serve as Head of Communications and Media there, a role I cherish and enjoy doing.
When and where did your journey in sport begin?
I have always wanted to play sport as a child growing up. I tried my hand at soccer, and I wasn’t great at it, so I then opted to cricket. This was a long time ago and I remember my friends and I used to sit, watch either cricket or soccer and try analysing starting line ups, tactics, and review games after. Back then we were doing it for fun and little did I know that I was getting myself ready for another life that awaited me.
I also had a neighbour who was a big Moroka Swallows fan, we used to stand against the fence and debate about soccer, we still do that now when I am home. We no longer discuss Swallows though.
When I could not play any sport I then figured, I can still live the sport by working as an analyst and/or reporter. In 2009/10, I dared a station manager at Mix FM to hire me, he made me audition live on air and hired me on the spot.
I then started working there during the 2009 FIFA Confederations Cup and covered the 2010 World Cup for the station. I was roped in as a co-host on their sports show the same year and I have never looked back since.
“My passion for sport was also paired with my inquisitive nature and then started sitting with prominent sports writers.” – Netball South Africa’s Head of Communications, Nnusi Gazi.
My passion for sport was also paired with my inquisitive nature and then started sitting with prominent sports writers such as Bareng Batho Kortjaas (BBK) from Sunday Times, S’busiso Mseleku who is the former Editor at City Press amongst others. I really started engaging them in sports conversations and this helped me a great deal.
I got a chance to engage with sports brands that I grew up watching and interviewed my childhood heroes which for me was a big thing! I really cherished every minute of that and made sure that I make the most out of it. I then started building a network which I could always fall back on.
From radio I then moved to working for a PR agency in Blairgowrie and surprisingly one of the first accounts I worked on included Manchester City and the International Cricket Council. This was just the kind of springboard I needed to skyrocket.
How did you end up at NSA?
After many years working for various PR agencies I decided that it was time for me to branch out and start doing my own thing, so in 2016 I registered my own sports PR company called Kgotla PR and Communications. I got a chance to do work for a few sports brands and in 2018 I took some time out to do research on netball in the country. I identified a gap there, put together a presentation and tracked down Netball South Africa President Cecilia Molokwane.
I managed to secure a meeting with her in November 2018. I remember this was a few days before the Diamond Challenge that was played in Polokwane. She said to me that she loved my presentation, however I needed to prove myself and get some PR around the event.
With extraordinarily little information I got on my bike and started working. A few days after my meeting with her she was off to Singapore (I think) with the CEO and then Minister of Sport to submit South Africa’s bid to host the 2023 Netball World Cup.
I saw this as a big opportunity! I arranged interviews for her around this, which was an easier hook for me. Upon her return she got very busy with media interviews that week in between the Diamond Challenge. I believed that I had passed the test.
I only got appointed at Netball South Africa four months later though, which was in March of 2019.
What is it like being part of NSA and getting the opportunity to grow the sport of netball in South Africa?
Being part of Netball South Africa for me is a blessing and a dream all in one. Sometimes as humans we go into situations wanting to effect change but do not realise that we also get changed in the process.
I feel like being at Netball South Africa has afforded me the opportunity to contribute towards history and help grow the sport which is great. I have relied on my past experiences from other sporting codes I have worked in and at the same time I walk into the office every single morning with an open mind knowing that all things are possible and understanding that there is something new to learn.
“I feel very honoured that I have been given an opportunity to serve the game, get involved and play my part in writing history and contribute towards growing this sport. This is an opportunity I do not take for granted.” – Gazi speaks on his being part of NSA.
Daily I am surrounded by a group of people who are passionate about the sport, people who have the desire to see the sport grow and most importantly, people who value and appreciate my contribution to the sport.
I feel very honoured that I have been given an opportunity to serve the game, get involved and play my part in writing history and contribute towards growing this sport. This is an opportunity I do not take for granted.
In 2019, you had an incredible opportunity to travel to Liverpool with the SPAR Proteas team for the Vitality Netball World Cup. What was that experience like for you?
Traveling with the team to Liverpool was a great learning opportunity for me considering that I had just joined the federation. I was able to learn so much whilst traveling with the team, made some great contacts from other countries in terms of how they do things from a media point of view, how they promote the sport in their respective countries and the likes.
For me this was never about anything else except to make sure that I document what the team was up to, provide media back home with much needed content such like match reports and interviews and also forge new relations with others to make sure that we continue learning from each other.
I never miss an opportunity to learn something new from others and making new contacts so that one can grow their network.
In terms of media, what were some of the lessons that you took away from being part of that tournament?
As a Communications person, media contacts are very important, and this was one of the first things I made sure that I secure whilst there. I interacted with every single media contact person from UK, Scotland, Jamaica, Australia, New Zealand, Uganda, Zimbabwe, and any other country that was represented at the 2019 Netball World Cup.
I managed to engage with all the media managers of the teams that were present there to get a sense of what they do and how they do it. This for me was and still is very important as it gave me an understanding of what others are doing in comparison to what we are doing here in South Africa.
This gave me an understanding of where we are as a federation and surprisingly I got to understand that most of these other countries are taking a leaf from our book in terms of how we tell our stories and promote the sport here.
I took with me a whole lot of intel and lessons from there and started implementing some of the things learnt there upon our return from Liverpool.
How do you think that you can use that experience that you have gained to change the face of sports media in our country?
To be very honest with you, I have started using some of the lessons. The invaluable experience received from being part of the World Cup could not have come at a better time.
If you look at how we are telling the netball story now, it is somehow different from how it was done in the past. We have managed to improve our digital presence, we now have a new website, YouTube channel has new content, our social media has grown, and we now have an identity. In terms of traditional media, I think netball has also taken space there and our stories are being told.
“I believe that there is still more for us to do, I think we have just began scratching the surface and as time goes on we will begin to touch the tip of the iceberg and do great exploits.” – Gazi insists that there is still much to do in women’s sport media spaces.
The stories have been there all this time and I think the how we are telling it is what had continued to make difference. I believe that there is still more for us to do, I think we have just began scratching the surface and as time goes on we will begin to touch the tip of the iceberg and do great exploits.
My desire is to make sure that I share the knowledge that I have gained from there with others and build a blueprint that will exist even after I have long left. I am hoping that this becomes the start of making magic within the organisation.
Personally, what would you say have been some of your biggest challenges in your career so far?
Shoooo, there has been so many, however life would not be complete without challenges, right? Challenges remind us how strong and resilient we can be.
I think some of the challenges that I have to deal with in my career has been resistance from others on implementing changes. As humans we are very comfortable with what we know, change is scary and some people don’t take it well, it scares them (which is understandable). Fear of change always serves as a stumbling block to progress.
Sometimes I shake the tree too much, however with time and experience I have learnt to suss out the situation, read the room and know my limits. If you want change, you do not demolish the whole structure but rather take it in small chunks which is my strategy now.
Apart from investing your time at NSA, are there any other projects that you are involved in?
Outside Netball South Africa I wear a few hats – I have an NGO (Nnusi Gazi Foundation) that I run, and our focus is around child headed households and orphanage homes. This is a personal project that is close to my heart and we have been at it for the past 10 years.
I am also a #PlayYourPart Ambassador under the Brand South Africa umbrella; my business is still running, and I have just acquired a stake in another company which I am hoping to grow as well.
What is your greatest ambition?
I think we will need the whole day to unpack this, LOL!
My ambition is to be part of a generation that has been able to bring about positive change in society in the various spaces that we all operate in. My desire is to ensure that we leave this space better than we found it, this is not for ourselves but more for those that are coming behind us.
My ambition is to get involved and play my part in telling the untold stories, I want to be remembered as one guy that came into women sport and helped make a difference, I want to be one of the solutions, I want to make sure that we continue to grow the sport off court, I want to be remembered as one of the people that fearlessly fought for the sport to be respected and be given the honour it deserves. That is what I’d love to achieve.