Glorious Grannies put up a competition for the ages

Letter from Limpopo: It wasn’t the Fifa World Cup — but Thabiso Sekhula says the Grannies international football tournament fired up young and old in Tzaneen

Nkowankowa is on any given weekend abuzz with young people painting the township red: cars parked at car washes, young people laughing and chatting in the streets and food options of various kinds available at every corner. 

But last weekend, there was a special kind of buzz in the neighbourhood. Grannies from all over the world came to flex their muscles and show which one of them could be the champion of the first ever Grannies International Football Tournament (Gift).

The USA walked away with the prestigious title and the bragging rights, but what Nkowankowa will always have is the special event.

It united young and old and showed us that despite age, we are all capable of some amazing feats. The tournament was hosted over the weekend, but the atmosphere in the area was electric for months in advance.

The name of the local team, Vhakhegula Vhakhegula, is a play on Bafana Bafana, but refers to grannies having trained for months to get ready for the tournament and gain home-ground glory.

A boxing ring was organised for them to get their strength up, they formed jogging groups to get their stamina up and they ate pap for an extra kick and skop.


A friend of mine, Nkhensani, who lives in the township, calls the event one for the books and something that fills her with pride. It united young and old, and even the kids, who would usually be glued to their phones, were out in the streets in numbers.

“We will talk about this tournament and how it brought the world to our neighbourhood for years to come,” Nkhensani told me in the stadium full of cheering crowds.

The tournament was made possible through the efforts of Mama Beka Ntsanwisi, a local hero who has given of herself to ensure that grannies in the community get the recognition they deserve.

When she’s not organising events for the elderly, her organisation builds houses for underprivileged families in Limpopo. 

This week her efforts saw an entire parade walk through the streets, reminding us of the time Miss SA Ndavi Nokeri put this very township on the map by winning the highest honours in the pageant world. 

We all sang and danced in the stadium with all the performers from the township and the volunteers who cleaned the stadium and streets in preparation. 

The mayor, the MEC of sports, TV personalities and even the taxi associations all came in support. An event for the ages, and a sign of what can be achieved when even one person believes in the potential of our communities. 

Mama Beka’s reasons for pursuing the tournament is that she feels the elderly are excluded from economic, sports and social programmes. 

For one week, the most important people in Tzaneen were our grannies, and they sure fired up the community. Cheers to our matriarchs for showing us that you’re never too old to make an impact and that in working together we can bring the world to our doorsteps because we have so much to share. 

Pictured above: The Breakers team won the Grannies International Football Tournament at Nkowankowa stadium under a perfect Limpopo sky

Photo by Nkhensani Ngomane

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