The opening scene of the documentary entitled ‘Child of Apartheid’ begins with the
protagonist Wandile Mthiyane playing football. The last scene of the documentary ends with
football. What does football have to do with apartheid, architecture and ambition? We sat down
with Wandile Mthiyane to find out more.
Wandile is the founder of Ubuntu Design Group, Obama Leader at the Obama
Foundation, fellow of The Resolution Project and TedxJoburg, and also Ambassador at
OneYoungWorld. He is also a fan of Orlando Pirates and AmaZulu. In addition, he has a
YouTube channel where he discusses mental health and events all in one place. He is known as
“Bullet” for his pace that he deploys as either a winger or forward.
Wandile admits that he is not the best player. However, he is disciplined and looks for
space and time. He accepts that he is not the best architect. However, he is disciplined and looks
for spaces to transform. Architecture and football are similar in many ways. That they rely on
spatial relationships and bring people together. Winston Churchill once said,” we shape our
buildings and afterwards our buildings shape us”. Furthermore, we support our teams and in turn
our teams support us. Through collective pride, community and unity.
Wandile discloses that he was in a dark place during the filming of the documentary. At
that point Wandile had lost both his parents and his grandmother. He was unable to thread a
thought together. The only solace he could find was playing football. “When you are in a dark
place, we tend to look for a safe place. Soccer (football) was that place for me”, Wandile affirms.
Playing did not help him escape reality, but enabled him to overcome.
The beautiful game has always been there for Wandile. When Wandile was in primary
school, he wanted to play for the school team. Unfortunately, he could not play for the school
team unless he got a pair of soccer boots. His parents were reluctant to purchase them for him.
When his uncle heard this, he immediately went out and brought a pair of brand new Umbro
boots. Thus, Wandile’s journey of organized football began.
Wandile grew up playing with his friends from school and his neighborhood. Some of
them, such as Lindo Mfeka have gone on to play in the Premier Soccer League (South Africa’s
top flight of football) and Major League Soccer(MLS). Wandile himself went on to play for the
Andrews University Cardinals in America. The game has always been beautiful to Wandile.
During his time at Andrews University, Wandile created an intramural team called Starchitects, that still exists to this day. The streets of Andrews University fondly remember a first half hat-
trick that Wandile scored during an intramural game. Wandile speaks deeply of what football has
taught him. “It (Football) has made me a better leader. Managing different personalities, working
under pressure and understanding of teamwork, all these principles are deeply embedded into the
game”, says Wandile. Just like you and me, football has been a mental healer for Wandile.
Growing up Wandile was not aware of the term ‘mental health’. However, he was in a
community that valued the importance of mental health displayed through love for one another.
It was only when he was in America, that he encountered battles with mental health. It is
absolutely normal to have concerns, and to be aware of your mental health. Mental health is an
everyday maintenance that is often overlooked by the hustle and demands of the world we live
in. During those moments, it is important that we take our mind to a safe place. What safer place
is there than a football field? To get involved in one of FC Not Alone’s open-for-all coaching
sessions, click this link to register your details.