Grannies kicking it

WORLD Cup fever has spread to South African grannies, with hundreds of poor, elderly women in aprons and skirts fighting for the ball in township games.

WORLD Cup fever has spread to South African grannies, with hundreds of poor, elderly women in aprons and skirts fighting for the ball in township games.

Twice a week they leave their chores, donning soccer boots instead of their usual rubber sandals to play in local matches.

The 35 women on the Vakhegula Vakhegula squad - meaning "grannies" in Xitsonga - range from 40 to more than 80 years old and live in a township near Tzaneen, 600km north of Johannesburg.

Competition is fierce among the eight teams in the region and the women say soccer is the best exercise, much better than their usual work at home and in the fields.

"I like to play soccer because it helps us. We were sick, but now our temperatures, our blood pressures . have gone down. Even our doctors are amazed when we go for a check-up," said Nari Baloyi (47).

Nora Makhubela, 83, has suffered six strokes, yet the great-grandmother said kicking a ball had given her a strength she did not think she still had: "My life has really changed. If I were to run with you I would beat you, even though I'm much older." - Reuters

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