The past year was one that Madibaz football captain Cloudius Sagandira took full control of as he shone both on and off the field.
Earlier this month, he led the Madibaz football team to victory in the Safa-Nelson Mandela Bay SAB League while graduating cum laude with a master’s degree in chemistry.
Under his guidance, Madibaz dominated the SAB League to such an extent this season that they secured the title with four matches remaining.
Currently in the first year of his PhD degree, Sagandira said his love of the game started at the age of nine when his father gave him his first pair of boots – a black pair of Nike Tiempos.
“I scored in my very first match wearing those boots, but I unfortunately missed a penalty kick in the final of the same tournament and we lost,” he said. “It’s a day I’ll never forget.”
Growing up in Nyanga, Zimbabwe, Sagandira played football throughout his school career but said his academics had always taken preference.
In 2011 he left his home town to pursue his academics in South Africa, where he continued to excel in both his sport and studies.
After the Varsity Football final in 2013, the striker was made an offer by a professional club, but, with guidance from family and his coach Mark Tommy, he made the decision to turn it down.
Tommy, now the Madibaz football manager, was one of many offering his support when the 26-year-old graduated earlier this month.
“My family and friends celebrated with me, along with my football family: Mark Tommy, my coach Wayne Iveson and Jayde Howitz.”
Sagandira gave thanks to those who had been present and said each of them had inspired him in their own way.
When it comes to balancing his interests, he said the biggest source of inspiration came from former Madibaz football captain Kurt Duff.
“I used to worry that I wouldn’t be able to balance football and academics but when I saw him doing well in his studies and sport, I was convinced that I could do the same.
“He was a great example to us all, on and off the pitch,” he said. “He has no idea how he influenced my life.”
Looking ahead, Sagandira said he was no longer chasing his childhood dreams of becoming a professional footballer or chemical engineer and would instead focus on excelling in his field of research – microfluidics and chemical processing.
He said it was unlikely, given his age, that he would pursue a career in football.
“Realistically, it’s highly unlikely that I will play football professionally as I will be 28 when I finish my PhD in 2019 and at that age it will be difficult to make it in a professional setup,” he said.
“Instead, I now hope to be a top researcher in my field of study and ultimately leave the world a better place.”