The Football Grandmothers

Sunday, 02 April 2017

"Vhakegula, Vhakegula," is the name of their football team, as the group of elderly ladies proudly tell. Translated, that's "Granny, Granny". Originally the South African grandmothers had planned to meet for aerobics. When one of the kids on the playground where they trained kick a ball over to them, things took a new turn.

The 20-minute short film "Alive and Kicking: The Soccer Grannies" left no eye in the audience dry. It tells the story of a group of elderly ladies from the South African province of Limpopo, who broke every local taboo by founding a football team.

They're not the fastest on the pitch. And their matches often have to be interrupted when one of the "Grannies" falls over and has to be helped back to her feet by her teammates. But it's enjoyable to watch them with their colourful headscarves, wide skirts, and irrepressible smiles.

Weaved in between the colourful match sequences are short passages in which the women tell of their lives, interrupted and shaped by abrupt strokes of fate. But before the atmosphere in the cinema took on a melancholic colour, the audience saw how the grandmothers pulled on their red and white kits and kicked their minds clear of the poverty, illness, and violence that they've all known.

"Vhakegula, Vhakegula" are unlikely to ever win an Africa Cup, and "Alive and Kicking: The Soccer Grannies" is unlikely to ever win an Oscar. The prize for the most touching film at 11mm, however, is a given. And we wish the "Grannies" every success in fulfilling their team motto: "Stay strong, live long!"