By Esté Langeveldt
Grannies are proving age is just a number by taking to the football pitch where nothing else matters.
The village grannies “Vhakegula Vhakegula” lace up their football boots for competitive matches and celebrate with laughter and traditional song.
In Tzaneen, a small rural village in Limpopo South Africa, Rebecca Ntsanwisi also known as Mama Beka, began what is known as the Vhakegula Vhakegula soccer grannies.
In 2003 Mama Beka was diagnosed with colon cancer which inspired her to set up a structure that could also help benefit the elderly woman in her village.
She noticed that many of the women had become withdrawn due to their own physical ailments, years of poverty, the threat of violence and caring for grandchildren.
With limited resources and Beka’s encouragement these grandmothers, some as old as 84-years-old, started with aerobics as a way to stay fit and active.
Aerobics became history for the women of Limpopo after a chance kicking of a football which they almost immediately and unanimously fell in love with.
Meeting up twice a week for practice and under the nurturing instruction of Coach Jack the grannies discover a much needed escape from the despair of their everyday lives.
Dealing with their own personal stories of physical abuse, neglect and/or the loss of loved ones, these elderly women use the football pitch to celebrate being alive and physically healthy.
Through an intensive workout regime comprising of various exercises and training drills, the Vhakegula Vhakegula team fully embrace the game despite the years on the clock.
The grannies play a bi-annual friendly football match against another elderly women’s team from a nearby village and as always it finishes with a song and dance.