Feature: Zambian grannies play football to keep fit-Xinhua

Feature: Zambian grannies play football to keep fit

Source: Xinhua| 2023-07-28 23:07:15|Editor: huaxia

A goalkeeper of the Yasha Grannies football team takes part in a training in Lusaka, Zambia, July 27, 2023. (Photo by Martin Mbangweta/Xinhua)

LUSAKA, July 28 (Xinhua) -- At a community playing ground in Kalingalinga, a sprawling densely shanty compound in Lusaka, the Zambian capital, a group of elderly women have gathered to play football.

Clad in complete sports attire, the women have come for one of their training sessions as members of the Yasha Grannies football team, which is comprised of women from the age of 50 and above.

Unlike young women who take training in order to compete in big tournaments like the World Cup, these grannies are doing it to keep healthy and fit.

Formed last year, the team is one of the teams under the Youth Armory Soccer Academy (YASA), a project managed by the Youth Armory Organization.

When asked what prompted the formation of the team for grannies, Elizabeth Mtonga, the team's manager, said they used to watch young girls playing on the ground, and got inspired and decided to form their own team.

The decision was also inspired by Rebecca Ntsanwisi, affectionately known as "Mama Beka," founder of a Soccer Grannies team in South Africa.

"We have a lot of grannies willing to come and join, with the oldest being 74. They are mainly doing it to keep fit and to have fun," Mtonga said, adding that the team has also attracted women in their 40s to be part of the game.

According to Mtonga, the grannies have benefited greatly from participating in the training sessions and playing football and their healthy has been improved.

"The response has so far been very good. We had a lot of women who had BP (high blood pressure). Some could not walk long distances, but now because they are training, they are able to sleep better, and they are complaining less of back pain," she added.

Early this year, the team participated in a tournament in South Africa that even prompted the government to come to the aid of the team and gave them allowances for participating in the tournament.

According to Mtonga, the formation of the grannies football team has inspired grannies in others residential areas in the Zambian capital to establish their own teams.

Mtonga said a friendly match with a team from another country expects to kick off next year.

The team's captain Lillian Zulu, 52, is delighted that many women in the team have seen an improvement in their health.

"Since we started, most of the women coming here had health issues like BP, diabetes and other illnesses. So when they started playing football, many have improved their health and rarely get sick," she said.

According to Zulu, participation in the tournament in South Africa, which attracted teams from 20 countries, has boosted morale in the team because they got inspiration and experience from other countries like the United States and South Africa which established grannies football a long time ago.

She has since urged other women to join in the game because exercises will help them deal with a lot of health issues.

Misozi Phiri, 51, one of the players of the team, said since joining the team last year, the frequent sicknesses that she used to experience and that confined her in hospital most of the time has ceased.

"This has helped me improve my health ... In the past, once I walk a short distance I would feel pain in my legs but it is no longer the case," she said.

Meliya Mwale, 65, whose passion for football stemmed from the time when she was at school, joined the team and regained her health and fitness. "I used to feel tired easily, and I had bodily pains but this is no more. I can now jump, I can dance, I can be happy like a 45-year-old."

Honest Chikusu, the trainer, said he enjoys coaching the grannies. "When they are on the pitch, they are like kids to me and I am very happy with their response during the training."

However, he expressed concern over the challenges facing the team, such as lack of equipment and transportation, and also the playing ground would become waterlogged during the rainy season. He urged the government to come to help the team.

For Chikusu, the future of grannies football in the country is bright as more teams have started coming up.

Members of the Yasha Grannies football team take part in a training in Lusaka, Zambia, July 27, 2023. (Photo by Martin Mbangweta/Xinhua)

Members of the Yasha Grannies football team take part in a training in Lusaka, Zambia, July 27, 2023. (Photo by Martin Mbangweta/Xinhua)