In a thrilling showdown of talent and teamwork, the University of Johannesburg (UJ)’s Protection Services unit emerged victorious in the inaugural UJ Internal Staff Soccer League. This groundbreaking event witnessed eight support services departments competing fiercely for the coveted title of the best team. The tournament, which kicked off in August, had a broader purpose beyond the field, aiming to promote team building, employee health and well-being, and contribute to a positive and engaging work environment.
The grand finale took place on the 9th of October 2023, with the Protection Services team squaring off against the Garden Services team. As the final whistle blew, it was the Protection Services unit who emerged as the champions, and the celebrations that followed were nothing short of spectacular.
Mr Justice Mzimela, the Head Coach of the victorious team and a Shift Supervisor from the Doornfontein Campus (DFC), beamed with pride as he spoke about the team’s journey to success. “Protection Services has had soccer teams since 2018 from the different campuses, but those teams were playing occasionally, during year-end functions. We decided to form a team that would continue as our representatives for the whole unit. There is a lot of talent among the players, and we want them to hone their skills. This has also inspired other departments to join in,” he explained. He emphasised that the long hours worked by the Protection Services unit demanded physical and mental fitness, and engaging in sports was a means to reduce stress and maintain their well-being.
Mr Mhlobowethu Hoyi, Head of Student Life for Student Affairs, played a pivotal role as the chairperson of the internal league for students. He tirelessly approached various departments to make the staff league a reality. Hoyi underlined the importance of departments participating in the tournament, revealing that next year, they were considering sending the winning team to the University Sport South Africa (USSA) staff day to represent the university on a larger stage.
Ms Nompilo Zondi, Senior Manager at UJ Sport, stressed that the league went beyond the physical aspects of the game. “Outside of the health benefits for all participants, playing with other departments helped teams foster professional relationships and provided networking opportunities among departments.” She further elaborated, “Staff teams were inclusive, with players from different backgrounds, some of whom did not play football in their childhood. This allowed them to enjoy the beautiful game regardless of their culture and gender; some teams even had female players. Due to the nature of our operations, some of the staff had never met before, as they were based on different campuses and served within various portfolios.” Zondi explained how these activities were instrumental in cultivating a culture of teamwork and healthy competition.
Engaging in sports not only proved to be a stress reliever for the staff members but also helped them manage work-related pressures and challenges more effectively. The benefits extended beyond the field, improving morale among employees, and creating a more positive workplace atmosphere. The Protection Services team was not resting on their laurels; they planned to keep the sports activities going with proposed monthly soccer games, group walks, jogging, and other fitness-oriented activities.
As the inaugural UJ Internal Staff Soccer League reached its grand conclusion, it was clear that this initiative had succeeded in fostering team spirit, enhancing employee well-being, and creating lasting connections between departments. UJ’s Protection Services Unit’s victory was not just a triumph on the soccer field but a testament to the power of collaboration and the pursuit of a healthier and happier workplace.