Football-playing grannies to score big in Mauritius

Rebecca ‘Mama Beka’ Ntsan’wisi.

Rebecca ‘Mama Beka’ Ntsan’wisi.

Published Apr 1, 2024


Durban — A group of South African “gogos” will be heading to Mauritius where they will play football with other golden oldies from the tropical island.

About 40 women, led by Rebecca “Mama Beka” Ntsan’wisi, will be heading to Mauritius at the end of April to exchange experiences with their Mauritian counterparts and highlight the significance of physical activity, create an awareness of health issues among the elderly and promote social cohesion.

The SA High Commission in Mauritius extended an invitation to the Vakhegula Vakhegula Football Club to visit Mauritius. Vakhegula Vakhegula is a soccer club for “grannies”.

Grandmothers, ranging in age from 55 to 84, are embracing the sport of soccer to lead vibrant, active and fulfilling lives. The movement of the soccer grannies has gained traction throughout South Africa, with about 245 informal teams being established.

Among the grannies heading to the island nation is Pietermaritzburg businesswoman Bunny Bhoola who has been involved in promoting tourism.

Bhoola, 69, says she has been exposed to exciting opportunities through her involvement in tourism, but this is the cherry on the top.

“This has been the most exciting initiative. I never thought of being involved in something like this. It has encouraged me to start exercising. I had never played football in my life. We are going to play against the grannies in Mauritius, motivate them, develop friendships and a better understanding that grannies should be leading a more active life.

“It’s the camaraderie and giving us the opportunity to get involved in a sport that has brought so much joy to people’s lives. I’ve been training diligently. It has motivated me. My brother-in-law, who is a football player, has been giving me some guidelines,” says Bhoola.

Bunny Bhoola.

Apart from promoting the sport and being active, it also promotes sisterhood, she adds.

According to Ntsan’wisi, a former radio presenter, philanthropist and motivational speaker from Limpopo, the idea of grannies football started by chance in 2007.

“I was ill and was taking a walk in my neighbourhood when I was joined by others. While sitting at the soccer field, a group of boys were playing football and the ball landed near us. One of the women kicked it back and people started laughing.

“One of the grannies then called me and said let’s go back to the soccer field and that was how it all started. This is also helping the grannies to stay active and fit. The oldest woman playing football is turning 100 soon,” says Ntsan'wisi, who has received a number of awards over the years, including the Order of the Baobab, Shoprite Checkers/SABC Women of the Year and Community Builder of the Year.

She says there wasn’t a grannies football team in Mauritius.

“They were inspired by what we were doing and invited us. We are going to showcase our talent there. And I’m proud to be travelling for the first time with a team of people from different race groups, promoting social cohesion,” she adds.

Different groups of the granny football teams have previously travelled to the US, France, Brazil and Russia.

Last year, grannies from around the world took part in the Grannies International Football Tournament in Limpopo.

Next year there are plans to host the Grannies International Football Tournament 2025.

Sunday Tribune