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soccer grans a hit

By Matome Lebea | Feb 22, 2010 | COMMENTS [ 0 ]

WHILE South Africans and the whole world will be waiting with bated breath for the final of the World Cup on July 11, Limpopo's soccer-playing grannies will be in the US displaying their talent.

WHILE South Africans and the whole world will be waiting with bated breath for the final of the World Cup on July 11, Limpopo's soccer-playing grannies will be in the US displaying their talent.

The grannies, who are aged between 50 and 84, will compete in the Veterans' Cup billed for Massachusetts from July 10 to 20.

A 10-member delegation of Vakhegula Vakhegula, the name of the grannies' side that is based in NkowaNkowa, Limpopo, will also be in China in May as part of an exchange programme with the Chinese.

Vakhegula, which means grannies in Sitsonga, is an initiative of Bheka Ntsanwisi as part of the health-driven project she established in August 2007.

Ntsanwisi, the popular presenter of Polokwane-based Munghana Lonene FM, said she established the soccer club in order to improve the grannies' health.

"Initially, I thought the grannies would only play for 30 minutes. Surprisingly they are able to play for the entire 90 minutes. I am also impressed by their high level of discipline and respect for time in terms of training and attending matches."

Their overseas invitation also took me by surprise because I think they were not ready for international tournaments," Ntsanwisi said.

"I'm happy that our grannies are now known in Italy and France after journalists from these countries came to NkowaNkowa to write their profile. The journalists were highly impressed with what they saw from our grannies in terms of skill and pace.

"I also want to thank Thobela FM for its continued support throughout and further call on the provincial government and corporate world for financial support," said Ntsanwisi, a recipient of the Order of the Baobab.

The club is sponsored by Tompson Novela, who provides them with playing kit and transport.

Norah "Teenage" Makhubele, 84, Vakhegula's oldest player, said when she joined the club she had painful legs and knees, but the pains disappeared after training sessions.

"I was suffering from blood pressure, which is now healed. I was very happy when Bheka told us that we would be flying overseas. That will be the first time in my life on a flight.

"I have also never been out of the country. We are all excited and can't wait for the trip," said a smiling Makhubele.

Angelina "General" Hlophe, 70, said they had redoubled their efforts at training because they were eager to win the Cup in the US.

"We are told the US is a very nice country to be in but we are not going for sightseeing but to win the Cup. We want to prove to the world that we are capable in football," said Hlophe, the talented defensive midfielder.

Beauty "Shakes" Kgatle, 62, said: "South Africa is hosting the World Cup, which we are convinced will be hosted successfully. We are going to the US to also show that we South Africans have football skills in all age groups. We are not going there to add to the numbers."

Vakhegula coach Khensani "Magic" Rikhotso said the grannies' ability to play soccer took her by surprise.

"When we started I never thought it would reach this stage this fast. We have started with preparations for the US tournament and everything is going accordingly and everybody is ready for the tournament," Rikhotso said.

Darryl Evans from France said when he saw the grannies on BBC news he was motivated to visit their base in NkowaNkowa with the aim of writing a documentary about the team.

Italian journalist Joelee Caimi and photographer Jean-Marc Caimi, who were also at NkowaNkowa, applauded Vakhegula for their love of the game.

"They have defied age to do what they like most - play football. Watching them in action was unbelievable," Caimi said .


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