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Wed. 13 December 2017

10th Anniversary of the FIFA/CIES Executive Programme in South Africa: Past Achievements and Future Prospects!

Nelson Mandela University and the International Centre for Sports Studies (CIES) celebrated the 10th Anniversary of their partnership in September 2017. This event provided an opportunity to look back on years of a fruitful cooperation, focused on organising the FIFA/CIES Executive Programme in South Africa. Who better to tell us about it than Programme Coordinator, Vernon Oosthuizen, and CIES Local Coordinator, Denver Hendricks. Here, they joined forces to describe a decade of work, effort and success. The Executive Programme is widely known and recognised in South Africa and also in neighbouring countries. It contributes to training a new generation of sports managers, who are aware that great performances by athletes are also the result of modern and efficient management.

Nelson Mandela University has just celebrated the 10th Anniversary of its partnership with CIES. Was it a great celebration?

Vernon Oosthuizen - VO

Yes, without a shadow of a doubt. The event was met with great success. The comments that we received from students, alumni and staff were all very positive, whether they concerned the official dinner, the diploma award ceremony for the students of the 10th edition of the Executive Programme or the "Anniversary Conference" itself.

Denver Hendricks - DH

We could add that the quality of the presentations given by the speakers - including three Executive Programme alumni and a FIFA Master alumna who is today working for the IOC – impressed the audience. And also the much appreciated presence of the Swiss authorities represented by the Consulate General of the Swiss Confederation in Cape Town.

What do you think of the partnership between Nelson Mandela University and CIES?


The fact that we celebrated our tenth anniversary proves just how dynamic our partnership is. Not only has it stood the test of time but it is increasingly popular. It offers so many advantages: An international network open to students and to teaching staff, a close relationship with FIFA and scholarships to attend the FIFA Master. All this contributes to giving the partnership undeniable prominence. I believe this partnership is beneficial not only for Nelson Mandela University, but also for our country as a whole.


Denver is right. We can consider our work with CIES as an example among the international partnerships of Nelson Mandela University. In addition, this cooperation is totally in line with the objectives of our university. In fact, training dozens of sport managers makes it possible to achieve concrete results in terms of both social and economic sustainability. Our students and alumni bring new professionalism to South African sport. They become more responsible citizens, who are able to reason critically, adapt and innovate. The NMU/FIFA/CIES Executive Programme is an example of success, and a positive legacy of the 2010 World Cup. I believe there is nothing like it on the continent.

What do you consider to be the most significant developments in your cooperation with CIES since 2007?


We could of course mention the expansion of the FIFA/CIES University Network which today includes 16 universities - even without counting those linked to the FIFA Master. There are also other innovations which are essential to the dynamic nature of the project: Regular adaptation of course content, the introduction of group projects which allow students to prepare a concrete, hands-on project rooted in the realities of national sport. And there are also the seminars which bring together teachers and those involved in organising the Executive Programme. In my view, the best aspect is the reputation we have today. Many students are recruited by word of mouth, both in and outside of South Africa.


Many predicted that our project would soon decline because it was not based in Johannesburg or Cape Town. However, we were able to prove those pessimistic forecasts wrong. For me, one of the main reasons for our success has been the excellent team spirit between CIES and Nelson Mandela University, and in particular the Department of Human Movement Science which has hosted the Executive Programme for more than 10 years now. Our friendship has grown. We are genuine partners who are not only proud of the successes achieved, but also stand together when difficulties arise.

What spirit has Nelson Mandela University brought to the project?


First and foremost, we strive to be faithful to the spirit of Nelson Mandela. Every step of the way, we ask ourselves: "What would Madiba do?" This attitude is reflected in respect for diversity, excellence, integrity and our environment. This also means that we meet our responsibilities. Concretely, in class, we devote special attention to our students and to their expectations.

We are also very pragmatic, in the most positive sense of the word. Our curriculum is based on group work, team spirit and practical case studies. As for our friends from the partner universities, we were able to give them an example of our "South African spirit" by welcoming them for a seminar organised in Port Elizabeth within the framework of the 2010 FIFA World Cup.



CIES is totally committed to the partnership. It contributes to it with regular advice and support. It fosters and encourages enthusiasm in the FIFA/CIES University Network which has experienced strong growth over the last 10 years. Moreover, the reputation of the FIFA Master – which has been ranked number 1 in Europe on five separate occasions - creates a climate of trust, which is conducive to motivation.

How is the curriculum organised to ensure that students benefit from the best training?


Most students are adults who have already gained a great deal of experience and knowledge. They come to class with all that background, which is why we seek to favour exchanges among our students and with the experts in charge of courses. The idea is to avoid the pitfalls of conventional "chalk and blackboard" teaching. We need to take into account all the things that each student can contribute, to offer a working environment that makes it possible to identify and solve problems by means of constructive dialogue.

In addition, the Executive Programme is organised in intensive weeks, which offers a significant advantage: Students, alumni and teaching staff build strong relationships. In a word, we aim to offer participants an unforgettable experience regarding teaching, learning and life experience.

Can you already assess the impact of the Executive Programme in South Africa?


After a decade, we are not yet able to measure its impact substantially. Nevertheless, the fact that alumni have reached important positions in sport, not only in South Africa, but also throughout the African continent and beyond, shows its importance. This will certainly continue to grow. In addition, we can reasonably consider that the Programme will continue to have positive impact on access to sport, from the way in which it is organised to the performances of athletes. Our country is brimming with talent. We have huge potential and we need competent mangers to highlight that.

Any success stories you would like to tell us about?


There are quite a few. When I did my research for the 10th Anniversary publication, I was surprised by the number of alumni who achieved professional success after being awarded their diplomas: Important positions during the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa, the 2012 Olympic Games, within FIFA, the International Wheelchair Basketball Federation, university sport or the fight to tackle doping. We also have alumni who received prestigious awards. Finally, we shouldn’t forget those alumni who do all the "grass-roots" work in regional and municipal organisations. Their role is essential as they contribute to far-reaching improvements in sport management, whether in South Africa or in neighbouring countries.

Any particularly happy memories?


Perhaps those linked to the beginning of the Programme, when we still had to create everything. I am also thinking of the FIFA/CIES University Network seminar that was organised here in Port Elizabeth, and of course the joy of celebrating our 10th anniversary. In fact, I have enjoyed each and every moment of my participation in the Executive Programme "adventure".


I also enjoy the time spent with my CIES colleagues or with speakers who hail from all four corners of the globe. A really special moment? The day I happened to run into an alumnus who had become President of a football club, and who thanked me. In fact, he had just signed a sponsorship agreement applying the knowledge gained in the marketing and sponsorship module. What more could I want?

How do you see the future of the partnership with CIES?

VO and DH (together)

We need to attract more managers from other countries so that Africa gains enhanced visibility at the international level. We also need to ensure that our sports organisations have sound foundations to encourage mass participation of young people and older people alike. Cooperation between FIFA, CIES and Nelson Mandela University must, therefore, continue to professionalise sport on the African continent, to take it to its rightful place.

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