The inspirational story of an amazing group of soccer-playing South African grannies.
In rural South Africa, beloved humanitarian “Mama Beka” defied social convention and started a soccer team for the women in her community. The Soccer Grannies, as they came to be known, won over their families and villages who at first rejected the idea of older women playing soccer, and that single team quickly grew into dozens. Soon, the strength, tenacity, and pure joy of the Soccer Grannies had captured the attention of the world.
In Soccer Grannies: The South African Women Who Inspire the World, Jean Duffy, a soccer-playing mom herself, recounts how she and her team set to work to bring the Soccer Grannies to the U.S. after hearing their incredible story. Despite many obstacles that stand in their way, the Soccer Grannies finally arrive, and Jean describes the wonderful friendships and cultural exchanges that follow. But Soccer Grannies tells more than just the physical journey of the South African women; it also details the Grannies’ personal journeys, sharing poignant insights into the realities of women living in South Africa.
Life beyond the pitch has not been easy for the Grannies. They have persevered through apartheid, rampant poverty and unemployment, the loss of children to AIDS, domestic abuse, and more. But with the friendship and support of their fellow Soccer Grannies, these women face life’s challenges with dignity, humor, and hope. Their stories show to the world the power of sport and its unique ability to bring people and cultures together.
Jean Duffy is a nonfiction writer who has published with the Boston Globe, the Concord Monitor, the Packingtown Review, the Somerville Journal, the Stamford Advocate, and WBUR Cognoscenti. Jean worked for twenty-six years as an engineer and manager before retiring and can now be found playing soccer and consulting with nonprofits. Follow her online at https://jeanduffy.com.
Foreword, Rebecca “Beka” Ntsanwsi
Prologue: A People United
Part I The Dream
1 Vakhegula Vakhegula FC
2 Mama, We Can Try This
3 We’re Not Bimbos
4 A Little Bit of Good
5 Vusiwana I Vuloyi
Mama Beka: The Mother Teresa of Limpopo
6 The Grannies Are Coming! The Grannies Are Coming!
Part II The Game
7 A More Perfect (Re)union
Granny Rossina: What Happens in the Bush . . .
8 Five Is a Lot
Granny Khune: We Danced like Crazy
10 Ukuleles and Vuvuzelas
Granny Bull: The Fierce Fighter
11 Rain Falling on Parched Land
Granny Norah: The Hard Way
12 May You Score Many Goals
Part III The Goal
13 Mopane Worms and Sequined Gowns
Granny Omo: Like Two Hands that Wash Each Other
Granny Gaisa: God Is My Protector
15 You Strike a Woman, You Strike a Rock
16 The Baobab Tree
Epilogue: Sisters in Soccer
About the Author
This is the book we all need. Learn the stories of a group of women who defy boundaries and limitations. You cannot help but soak in their love and courage.
Inspiring and empowering, these soccer grannies show us why and how soccer is the beautiful game on so many levels. It is pitch perfect, all puns intended.
Soccer Grannies is an inspirational initiative, beautifully reminding us that the game of billions, as football is christened, belongs to all the peoples of the world.
A heartwarming story of struggle, joy, and triumph centering on unlikely soccer players—grandmothers of South Africa. We learn not only about how these women overcome obstacles they face within the sport, but also how they negotiate historical and contemporary legacies of apartheid and colonialism. Jean Duffy skillfully writes about the spirit, faith, and spunk of these older athletes and inspires the reader to dream of endless possibilities built through friendships, reciprocity, and communities of care.
A moving account of the power of sport and women’s friendship, Soccer Grannies shows how a team of senior South African women does much more than score goals: they build community, at home and across the world. This story of international journeys and joyous matches is enriched by its intimate portraits of the lives of these women athletes and community leaders.
In many instances, a sports team will inspire others and not because of their excellent play, their championships or even the accomplishments of some of the athletes. Sometimes just the fact that the athletes are playing their sport and enjoying themselves is enough to inspire people and this book by Jean Duffy tells of a group of women in South Africa who do just that.... Whether one is a soccer fan or not, this book is one that any reader will enjoy and will also learn about some of the culture of South Africa, both the good and the bad. The story of Beka and the rest of the Soccer Grannies is one that every person, athlete or not, should enjoy.
Soccer Grannies: The South African Women Who Inspire the World is a non-fiction book that could just as well read as the script of a triumph-against-the-odds movie. Soccer Grannies quietly reminds us about what, at the root of it, is important and valuable about sport. The camaraderie. The invitation to enhanced fitness. Sport’s ability to connect people across ethnic divides, across socio-economic classes, across cultural differences, and across continents…. Duffy’s book tells the story of the original Soccer Grannies team, weaving together a compelling tale that tells us something about the power of sport to engender well-being and forge connections.
Soccer Grannies is a terrific book. If it were nothing but a “feel good” story, it would be terrific enough, because we need all the “feel good” stories we can get, but it’s much more…. Soccer Grannies is, in part, an account of the adventure the soccer grannies enjoyed in the U.S., and the trip Duffy and some of her teammates made to South Africa a year later to renew their friendship and play some more soccer. But this exceptional book also provides a powerful summary of the history of Mama Beka’s country, where discrimination against everyone who wasn’t white was written into the nation’s laws.
The kick-off of the Women’s World Cup is less than a month away, and Somerville-based writer Jean Duffy has written a book to launch you into the fervor. Soccer Grannies tells the story of Rebecca Ntsanwisi, who, besides working to improve the education, health, and housing in her community, started Vakhegula Vakhegula, otherwise known as the Soccer Grannies, a soccer team for older women. Duffy, a soccer player in her mid-60s herself, celebrates Ntsanwisi and writes an account of the Soccer Grannies making a visit to the US, as well as the harrowing backstories of many of the players. Duffy’s book underlines how much is possible as we age, and reminds us of the sustaining force not just of moving the body, but of the joy of being on a team, of the support and camaraderie in the shared endeavor of running on a field and putting a ball into a net. The Soccer Grannies set the best kind of example: keep playing, keep playing. As the countdown for the kick-off in New Zealand continues, Duffy, with warmth and zeal, makes us know: The beautiful game is for everyone.
Author will be donating book proceeds to help keep elderly women safe in South Africa
11/29/22, Sports Book Reviews: This book was highlighted in a roundup of highly anticipated sports books.
2/2/23, Choice: This book was included in a roundup of forthcoming titles in African American studies.
3/2/23, Choice Reviews: This title was featured in a roundup of forthcoming Women’s & Gender Studies books.
3/24/23, WCVB-TV Boston: The release of the book was included in this piece about theGrannies International Football Tournament.
5/12/23, Women’s Sports Alliance: Author Jean Duffy is interviewed about the Soccer Grannies and the release of the book.
6/15/23, Cambridge Day: Jean Duffy is interviewed for a feature article about the book. The article also highlights the forthcoming event at Porter Square Books.
6/22/23, WBUR Radio Boston: Author Jean Duffy and Rebecca Ntsanwisi discuss the sisterhood of the Soccer Grannies.
7/9/23, Women’s World Football Show: Jean Duffy and Beka Ntsanwisi are interviewed about the book.
7/19/23, Ytali Italian News: Profiles the book, Jean Duffy, and Mama Bek in this article.Link: https://ytali.com/2023/07/19/never-too-old-for-calcio/
7/19/23,WBUR’s Cognoscenti: Jean Duffy wrote a piece about the Soccer Grannies and the book is mentioned in her byline.
7/24/23, SABC News (Johannesburg): Beka Ntsanwisi and Jean Duffy were interviewed about the Grannies and the book.
7/24/2023, Born to Talk Radio Show: Jean Duffy Talked to Marsha Wietecha about the book.
7/28/2023, Women Writers, Women’s Books: A A&Q with Jean Duffy about the book was featured.
7/26/23, Off The Looking Glass podcast: Jean Duffy and Beka Ntsanwisi discussed the story of the Soccer Grannies with Kate Fagan and Jessica Smetana.