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Monday, July 5, 2010

They Kick like Grannies, Proudly: Frail, elderly women in South Africa started playing soccer as a joke

The grandmothers gather on a lumpy piece of grass as the late sun paints a golden light. Their long, demure skirts, bright kerchiefs and flat rubber shoes are like a uniform of old age.

Then one peels off her shirt, revealing a sturdy, flesh-colored bra. Another shirt comes off, and another and another. Everywhere are sensible bras and plump skin.

They pull on T-shirts and drag tight nylon shorts on under their skirts. They shimmy their skirts to the ground.

And lace up their soccer boots.

Some of the women stump stiffly onto the field. Others are limping. Some move as quietly as water in a slow-moving river.

The coach blows a whistle and the game begins.

In a rural South African township with staid values, the soccer grannies are quiet revolutionaries.

When the elderly women began kicking a ball around three years ago, they nearly caused car accidents as drivers craned to see them. People walking by stopped to stare. Gossips in this stretch of small houses, taverns and dusty streets in Limpopo province, in the north of the country, passed the word along: The grannies are playing soccer! Come and see!

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They Kick like Grannies, Proudly

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