Grannies score in a big way

They are typical rural mamas and gogos clad in skirts, aprons and

doeks – but to think they spend all their time in a rut of cooking, sewing and

tending vegetable gardens is a mistake.

Every afternoon they gather on the dusty local ground – to play

­soccer!

This happens in the Matibidi area, 60km from the tourist town of

Graskop in Mpumalanga.

Coincidentally, this is also where Bafana Bafana and Mamelodi

Sundowns striker Surprise ­Moriri grew up and honed his soccer skills.

It seems the spirit of the world-renowned soccer-playing Limpopo

grannies – Vakhegula ­Vakhegula (grannies in ­Xitsonga) – from Nkowankowa near

­Tzaneen is rubbing off on their peers elsewhere.

Vakhegula Vakhegula recently took part in the 2010 Veterans’ Cup at

Progin Park in Lancaster, Massachusetts.

Each day of the week, except when there is a funeral, about 30

women – who are mostly in their 40s, 50s and 60s – play under the watchful eye

of their coach, ­Tumisho Mohlala (24).

There are only two teams in Matibidi at the moment – ­Mahuduwa FC

and Apara FC, which are named after the local villages. The bigger plan,

­however, is to establish more teams and a league.

Maria Mahlakoane (52) of Apara FC says they first hatched the idea

of playing soccer during their meetings in societies in June.

Mahlakoane says: “We know that exercise is healthy and a good way

to deal with stress.

“I am now interested in ­watching soccer on TV and learning more

tricks, skills and rules of the game.”

Redumetse Selepe (37) of ­Mahuduwa FC is among the youngest members

of the team and is doing physical exercise for the first time in her life.

She says: “Our husbands and children love what we are doing.

Believe me, this initiative is now spreading like wildfire to other villages of

Matibidi, and very soon each village will have a team and we will have a

league.

“Those grannies from ­Limpopo (Vakhegula Vakhegula) and the World

Cup ­encouraged us. We wish to play in Mbombela Stadium one day,” Selepe

says.

Mohlala says that when the ­women approached him for help, he could

not refuse.

He says: “When they play, many people come to watch them.

I think

people still do not believe what they see – that these women can make the time

to run ­after a soccer ball.

“I am doing this from the ­bottom of my heart. They have been

improving as their fitness levels are going up.

The problem now is that they do

not have the ­correct ­soccer attire and we need ­donations.”



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