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Vakhengula Vakhengula !!!

June 4, 2010

Romeo talks about his Grannies

May 5, 2010

Soccer Cinema meets Soccer Grannies

May 5, 2010

“Faster, faster… Eish! Come support them,” Romeo Rikhotso’s voice carries across the soccer field.  The coach, who at times despairs a tad but never fails to motivate and encourage his players, loves the ladies on the pitch like his biological grandmother. Romeo, a player himself, a lot more than half the age of the players, coaches Vakhengula Vakhengula, South Africa’s first and most famous Soccer Grannies twice a week. The intrepid grannies are based in Nkowankowa, 15km outside of Tzaneen, in Limpopo.

Coach Romeo discussing strategy with the soccer grannies

 At the time when community worker Beka Ntsanwisi established South Africa’s first geriatric soccer team, most of the grannies (Vakhengula means grannies in Xitsonga), couldn't even walk properly and if they did something in their free time they would be knitting or sewing and sitting all the time.  “Here they run, shout, fight with you... it keeps them young."


Goalie in action!

The grannies, a bubbly and charming bunch of not that old and gracefully old ladies, aged between 40 something and early 80s, arrive in long dresses, some donning ZCC badges on their shirts and many with beaded cell phone pouches, carrying water bottles and their soccer gear in plastic bags or small backpacks. All are excited, cheerful and animated. 

Today’s game takes place in the stadium, where youngsters train and circle the field on the running track or run up and down stairs in the gallery. The contrast is extreme and beautiful... Once the teams are divided up, the grannies pull out their shorts, socks, shorts and – most prized possession – their soccer shoes with crampons out of their bags. After a quick warm-up, which consists of jogging across the field twice and leaves some a little short-breathed, all the players take their positions and the beautiful game starts.

Soccer granny with her vuvuzela, soccer boots & kit.

The game between the two teams starts slow, until Number 14, Beatrice Tshabalala, who coordinates the teams with Mama Beka, pushes forward and adds momentum to the game.

Number 2 in the white shirt, walks with difficulty, Number 15 is referred to as Maradona.

Number 11 generally struggles to walk but without fail, has her eyes on the ball at all times and always tries moving towards it. A foul from number 9 is followed by an explanation by Romeo in the local language, Shangaan (Xitsonga) and then a free kick. Even swopping players has to be done according to rules and is accompagnied by giggles. Throughout the game, the gogos talk, laugh and move and keep a steady but gentle pace.  One of the players even attempts a head butt!

“Half-time, water break!” Romeo calls after about 20 minutes. And promptly adds “Jog! Jog!”, which is headed by some but mostly met with giggles and a slow stroll by his protégés.

Later in the game, when Number 15 aka Maradona falls and lies flat on the ground, three of the gogos sitting out on the sideline let out a loud “Sorriiiiiiiiiiii”. Maradona slowly gets up, arms reach out to her and dust her off, wipe her face and the game goes on.

The 40 women on the Vakhegula Vakhegula squad range from 40 to over 80 years old. Over the years, Mama Beka has established eight teams across the region. Her work has inspired other communities to set up soccer grannie leagues. On 15 May, Vakhengula Vakhengula will be playing against teams from Orange Farm, which were set up following a programme on the grannies from Limpopo on TV.


 Before or after the game - the soccer grannies are high spirited!

Asked how she felt today, Angelina Hlophe responds: “Like a fish in the water!” After training, she pulls a few recent photographs out of her bag. The pictures are of her and her teammates, and some shot four years back, Angelina on crutches. “I suffered from arthritis, heart failure, gout and had to walk with these crutches,” she says, pointing at one of the pictures where she does look younger but less healthy. For many of the soccer grannies, soccer has become more than just a game: it has increased their levels of fitness, provided them with plenty of fun and good health.

The soccer grannies not only love to play but love watching soccer, have adopted the names of great local and international players (no women players…) and pray for Bafana Bafana to do well in the World Cup. They also hope to be able to attend a game at the Peter Mokaba stadium in Polokwane.

Beka’s biggest dream is to host a Soccer Granny World Cup and to find the necessary funds to head an invitation Vakhengula Vakhengula have received to fly to Boston and play against some old American grannies…

For more information on the game between Vakhengula Vakhengula and Orange Farm, contact Beka on 072 785 7999 

 Soccer grannies watching a Soccer Cinema film on a very small screen ahead of the screening on 11 May 2010 at 2pm. 


Two funerals and one song

April 14, 2010

Two funerals and one song

The killing of SACP Secretary General Chris Hani on 10 April 1993 was one of the most tragic events in recent South African history, robbing us of one of our greatest leaders, threatening to tear South Africa apart. 

At his funeral, the late Peter Mokaba, then ANC Youth League president sang a song that has been making headlines in recent weeks: Kill the Boer, Kill the farmer. 

The tune, picked up 17 years later, by another ANC Youth League president, Julius Malema, has been linked to the death of right-wing leader Eugene Terre'Blanche. 

It is a bizarre irony that the two songs connect these two radically opposed men. A dignified leader, who fought for the new South Africa and paid with his life, a brutish leader who fought vehemently against the establishment of majority rule, going as far as  leading an assault onto the World Trade Centre in Kempton Park, trying to derail the talks at CODESA during the fragile transition period. 

Freedom songs played a crucial role in the fight against apartheid. They served to upkeep the morale of soldiers and comrades alike, were a medium through which ideas and ideologies could be transmitted. Struggle songs, according to Anne-Mary Gray based at UKZN, reveal a spectrum of communal perceptions and responses to the unfolding events that faced black South Africans between 1912 and 1994. Steve Biko as well as Miriam Makeba highlight this: 

"Any suffering we experienced was made more real by song and rhythm which leads to a culture of defiance, self-assertion and group pride and solidarity. This is a culture that emanates from a situation of a common experience of oppression . . . and is responsible for the restoration of our faith in ourselves and offers a hope in the direction we are taking from here." (Biko, 1978, pp.57,60)

To convey the significance of the fight against HIV/Aids, the Treatment Action Campaign (TAC) choir, The Generics, changed the lyrics but kept the tunes of well known struggle songs. A change of tongue seems to be more conducive to building  the new South Africa, than a broken record…



April 14, 2010
post will be written soon, enjoy this clip for now.

Wickedness Killed Greatness

April 14, 2010


A poem by Benjamin Zephaniah


Wickedness tried to kill greatness.

In a corner of South Africa

Where they believed there were

No mothers and fathers

No sisters and brothers


Where they believed

One could not hear the cries of another,

Wickedness tried to kill greatness.

Wickedness tried to build a nation

Of white tyrants.

In a corner of the planet

They arrogantly downpressed

They did not overstand

As they suffered the illusion of the God complex,

But these words are not for wickedness.

These words are for greatness,

The greatness that inspired doctors and nurses

To become educated in the art of freedom getting,

The greatness that inspired educators to become liberators

And a nation of children to become great themselves.

South Africans in the valley of the shadow of death

Feared no wickedness

Because greatness was at their side

And greatness was in their hearts,

When the wind of change went south

Greatness was it's trustee, guided by truth.

Now we who witnessed the greatness

Sing and dance to his legacy,

We who muse his intelligence

Spread the good news in Reggae, Soul, Marabi

And the theatre of liberation,

Knowing that nobody dies until they're forgotten

We chant Biko today

Biko tomorrow

Biko forever.

Wickedness tried to kill greatness

Now wickedness is dead

And greatness lives

In Islington

As he lives in Cape Town.



April 14, 2010
will write this post soon...

Happiness in Peddie

April 14, 2010


The education centre and our email printed out on the wall.

There is happiness in Peddie and it gushes from Nokubonga.  She does not um or ar when she speaks - she chuckles and giggles.  Spending a few hours with her to organise the screening was blessed.  And, we were stoked to see the Soccer Cinema email printed out on the notice board!


When the ball appears everyone wants to play - smart, young and old.

Nokubonga with her friends Sibusisu & Weli.


Humansdorp / Jbay

April 14, 2010
will write this up soon...

Knsyna – The beautiful town is ready for 2010

April 6, 2010
Knysna, host city for Denmark & France is a lively, lovely, pretty town, ready and excited about the World Cup. Thanks to Thomas Paremoer and Brian Blaauw from the Municipality, Soccer Cinema will be hosting two screenings, one in the rural outskirts of Rheenendal and another one at Joodeskamp’s LoveLife Centre.  

Buying cool drink at the spaza shop, I am once again called "mlungu"by small smiling kids trailing me. "Igamalam nguNathalie", I try, irritated and frustrated...



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