“Jump, Geneviève, hop!” Follow your balloon. Accompany him! » The coach who shouts at the edge of the gymnasium of Saint-Just-Chaleyssin (Isère), this evening in March, is 62 years old and has the energy of a young girl. Mobile and concentrated, Patricia Vittorelli revolves around her student who is trying to send the ball back to the wall. Geneviève Boxebeld started football in early February. The 68-year-old retired cardiologist spent years accompanying her sons to their matches, ” now it’s [s]we turn to practice ».
Good that “left-handed, not very well lateralized”, she is already seeing the benefits of three weeks of exercise. The sexagenarian counts on her “good legs” sculpted by skiing. It is too late to go back: from March 26 to 29, the player, her coach and eleven teammates, aged 52 to 68, take part in the international Soccer Grannies tournament. “Soccer grannies” from nine countries – United States, Benin, Togo… – will compete in South Africa in matches of two times twenty minutes reserved for 50-year-olds and over, beginners or confirmed.
In Saint-Just-Chaleyssin, where six of the players who will sing The Marseillaise at the opening ceremony, the “grannies” taste more or less their nickname. It is that some are barely entering their fifties. The knitting, the cakes, the decorum of the grandmother, very little for them. “In our heads, we are all 10 years old”, sums up Patricia Vittorelli.
A founding defeat
In 2019, a match was held in France between the South African Soccer Grannies and a French team set up for the occasion by a real estate group for seniors. The French cash a cruel 10-0. But all is not lost. The association Footballers at all ages was created to connect women over 50 with clubs. Scattered across France, the selected players will team up in South Africa for the first time.
More than victory, they seek the pleasure of the game, the collective and the effort. “I always wanted to play football, but my mother didn’t agree: I didn’t want to be bored with the weekend matches,” recounts Agnès Verpillat, whose father, “semi-pro, played with the Canaries of FC Nantes” at the end of the 1950s. The policewoman got into it three years ago, at the age of 50, when an intergenerational women’s team was born in her village.
“Three or four girls have played in the past and still have a job. The others start from scratch, but you have to see their will. It’s beautiful. »Patricia Vittorelli, coach
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