Soccer gogos pull up their socks
Love for the beautiful game among the elderly women in Soweto is growing, and the old ladies are elated that they can stay healthy.
What started in Limpopo through a grannies team called Vakhegula Vakhegula is now also growing in the country's biggest township.
Old women put on their shorts and head for the soccer ground to show off their skills.
Some prefer wearing skirts.
One team which is becoming popular is the Phefeni Gogos which started in 2017.
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These grannies train on the same ground which was used by Kaizer Chiefs when it was formed back in 1970. Two of the team members are 80 years old.
Leading the grannies is their captain Phuti Semenya, 75, who has been there since the team was formed.
Semenya looked quicker for her age when Sowetan visited Phefeni Gogos' training session yesterday morning. "Maybe it runs in the family," she joked.
Her first grandchild, Lehumo Itshegetseng, played for Mpumalanga Black Aces and Free State Stars. Her family has been very supportive of her. "My grandchildren were very excited when they learned that I am playing soccer because they knew I would stay healthy," Semenya said.
At her age, Semenya takes medication for arthritis and high blood pressure but these have stabilised since she started playing soccer.
"On Thursday last week I went for a check-up. My blood pressure was low. My doctor told me that I should not stop playing soccer because my condition has improved."
The grannies train hard on the dusty ground while working on their football skills and fitness. Their coach Mqusi Manana said the team started with just four members and has since grown to 18. All the grannies live within a walking distance to the soccer ground.
"We saw grannies in Limpopo and got inspired that we can also start a team in Soweto because there are a lot of grannies in this area," said Manana.
The team trains on weekdays for about an hour and have joined the Soweto Senior Citizens Soccer League administered by Safa.
Other granny teams in Soweto are in Dobsonville, Zola, Rockville, Pimville, Diepkloof and Meadowlands.
"The grannies are improving every day. When we started they did not know what to actually do with the ball. I then took them through basics and they are getting better.
"Our only challenge for now is to improve their understanding of formations and how they are supposed to move in spaces during the game," said Manana.
Despite the improvements, Manana said some games were tough as other teams had grannies with an average age of 55. "Those ones are too quick for our team. Our team has mostly people in their 60s and early 70s. It is difficult to compete against them."
After an intense training session yesterday, the grannies formed a circle and closed in prayer.
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