Award Winner 2017
OUR UNSUNG SPORTS HEROES AND HEROINES
Motlopi Sheila Lehlabe
Born on the 28 August 1959 in Atteridgeville, the diminutive Sheila Motlopi Lehlabe, grew up to become a giant that broke gender barriers in regional, provincial and national sports administration and management.
She has courageously served women in sports at all levels in many different positions in the country. She travelled extensively throughout the country by road and air interacting with all types of community and national leaders in a variety of structures. She did it all as an activist in pursuit of excellence in sports generally and mass participation of women in sports in particular.
Sheila’s love for sports of almost 50 years developed early at Isaac More Primary School, Atteridgeville where she participated in athletics doing the 100m and 4 x 100m relay. She went on to play basketball, which was later transformed into netball, at Flavius Mareka High School, Atteridgeville. Her passion for sports was so intense that it could only be satisfied by more involvement in the community ladies’ soccer. She joined the All-American Club, a mixed football club which competed against well-established popular soccer clubs like Hans Sporting, City Rocks, Wanderers and others.
Her love for sports led her to organise children in her neighbourhood and formed a football club which participated in the local league which provided the children with sponsored soccer jerseys and prize money which she used to pay for their affiliation. She used her own money to provide transport for the children to travel to games, to buy food and at times even pay their school fees and buy them stationery. She thus kept the children away from the streets and mischief. The children enjoyed it and had lots of fun. But when Sheila’s own children went to tertiary institutions and could thus not afford to run the children’s football club, a big problem arose. One day when she returned from work, she found all the neighbourhood children camping at her home crying and pleading for her help to continue playing football. Sheila kind-heartedly relented and continued to help them.
This single mother of two boys, who is the second born of five siblings, had a huge appetite for sports. Additional to be a qualified teacher, Sheila was also motivated to further her studies in Sports Administration at the then Pretoria Technikon.
In 1992 when women football was established, Sheila formed City Sharks, the first ladies’ team which affiliated and participated in the then Northern Transvaal Women’s League under the South African Football Association (SAFA). The league developed the young ladies who were eventually recruited by Mamelodi Sundowns, Tshwane University of Technology and University of Pretoria who also offered the student players bursaries.
In 1992 Sheila was elected the secretary of SAFA Northern Transvaal Women Executive Committee.
From 1993, Sheila participated in local football as a member of Phelindaba Football Association which is the custodian of football in Atteridgeville, Saulsville and surrounding areas. They became an affiliated member of what later became known as SAFA Tshwane where Sheila started her long sterling and illustrious journey in sports administration and management. She was mentored and groomed by Atteridgeville giants in football administration such as Dan Mahlaba, Seshego Latakgomo, Meadow Molala and the inimitable Ntsontso Mosehle. She grew further and became the Deputy President of Phelindaba Women Football and Chairperson of its Marketing.
In 1997 she represented Phelindaba Football Association at the Sports Council meeting of Atteridgeville Saulsville Sports and Recreation Forum.
In 1998 she was co-opted as Secretary of Atteridgeville Saulsville Sports and Recreation Forum.
In 1998 – 2005 when provincial and municipal demarcations had been changed, she became the Secretary of the Competition Committee of SAFA Gauteng North. Her Committee was responsible for competitions of all local football associations in the North Region.
In 2005 – 2012 Sheila was the ever-dependable Secretary of Atteridgeville Saulsville Sports and Recreation Arts and Culture Council, known as ASSRECC. She served and learnt from those who mentored her and who included Lexie Mothabela and Itu Moloto.
In 2006 when SAFA Tshwane was established, she was elected a member of the Women’s Football Committee and also became a member of the SAFA Regional Executive Committee.
In 2010 – 2015 Sheila was the Executive Committee member of SAFA Tshwane and served as the Chairperson of Women Football for Tshwane.
In 2012 she was appointed to serve in an interim committee which was responsible for the merger of three regions of Motsweding, Tshwane and Gauteng North into one Sports Council. A new constitution was drafted with the help of City of Tshwane. The new Tshwane Sports Council was established. During the elections that followed in that same year, Sheila was elected to the Executive Committee of Tshwane Sports Council.
In 2015 she was co-opted to the Executive Committee of Gauteng Sports Confederation.
In 2016 she was elected to the Executive Committee of Tshwane Sports Council and was tasked with the responsibility to chair the Development and Mass Participation Commission of the Council.
In the same year, Sheila was elected to the Executive Committee of Gauteng Sports Federation and became Chairperson of Women in Sports Committee. She was responsible for ensuring that women’s committees are up and running in the five district corridors of Gauteng. It was her mammoth duty to make sure that girls and women actively participate in sports in Tshwane, Sedibeng, Ekurhuleni, West and Central Rand.
In 2017 she was appointed to serve as member of Women in Sports Commission of South African Sports Confederation and Olympic Committee (SASCOC). Their mandate is to provide policy guidelines and recommendations to the SASCOC Board on all matters relating to Women in Sports. The objectives of Women in Sports is to address representation of women in all spheres and levels of sports and to build capacity for their involvement, increase women’s participation in sports and recreation and develop common provincial goals.
Sheila has been driven from her young age by an insatiable desire to see women and youth participate actively in sports and assert themselves in all levels and community structures to make their voices heard so that their involvement should be beneficial to their families and community.