Walking football: they'll never walk alone

Gillian Rowe / 06 November 2018

Players of 'the beautiful game' are still getting a competitive kick out of football, well into later age, with walking football - a slower-paced but equally entertaining variation.

There’s no such thing as hanging up your boots in football these days. Whatever your age, there’s an opportunity to keep kicking a ball all over the country, with the growth of walking football, a slower-paced version of the beautiful game, open to anyone over 50.

To encourage over-50s to act quickly and seek advice, Saga Health Insurance customers can call a 24/7 GP helpline for free. People can call for advice and often get a diagnosis from the comfort of their own home without having to wait for a slot with their local GP.

Walking football was first played in 1932 between a team of Derby Railway and Crewe Railway veterans, and repeated annually until 1936. The game then disappeared until 2011 when the Chesterfield FC Community Trust took it up. But it was a Barclays TV ad, in 2014, featuring a fan of walking football that really saw the game take off. There are more than 800 walking football clubs now, either competing as part of a league – there’s even an England football team – or simply as a recreational activity for anyone over 50 wanting to keep healthy and enjoy the social and mental benefits of playing as part of a team.

The Folkestone Walking Football team meets every week, playing outdoors in the summer and at the local gym through the winter months. The group of between 16-20 players, made up of both men and women and ages ranging up into the 80s, split in two for their weekly match. For Tony Newington, 65, it’s a joy to be able to take up the game again. ‘I gave up playing for my local football league in 1974. I’ve continued to be involved, helping on the admin side, but only started playing again a couple of years ago. We started kicking the ball around and everything came back to me, but the good thing is there isn’t any tackling involved so there’s no fear of injury!’

Lynne Parker, 62, a retired primary school teacher, played hockey when she was young, but always wanted to play football. ‘I never had a chance, it just wasn’t something you did when I was young, and suddenly I get into my sixties and there’s this opportunity to play!’

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