We describe it, in short and slightly tongue in cheek as "A slower version of the Beautiful Game for those wanting to prolong their glorious careers".
As I said, tongue in cheek but then isn't that what amateur sport is all about? Enjoying the thrill and buzz of emulating your heroes on a piece of grass or astro turf, then laughing about it over a pint in the pub afterwards.
Officially Walking Football is aimed at over 50's and 60's who through age or injury can't cope with the rigours of fast paced football anymore. Allowing only walking levels the playing field substantially - walking is defined as having one foot on the ground at all times - it also reduces the speed of contact, making the game safer, officially Walking Football is a non-contact, but have you ever tried stopping an old footballer tackling?! So that is the main premise of WF, there are a few other tweaks to the laws of the game. The ball must remain under head height, heading the ball at any height is not allowed either. Throw ins are replaced by kick-ins. Matches are generally 5, 6 or 7 a side. There are also rules around the penalty area being a goalkeeper only space.
On the Monday evening we generally have a 10 minute warm up, generally with the football, some light stretches before moving into a match (or matches depending on numbers) we mostly play a conditioned game called "Empty the Net" to help improve our passing skills, but also play to the regular rules too.
In terms of the game itself it does pose it's own challenges as new players find, the ball into space for a player to run onto doesn't exist! Accurate passing to feet is a must. Walking styles develop to get the most out of old legs! It's got to be said that players with long legs have an advantage of covering more ground.
So there you have the dry bare bones (pun intended) of Walking Football but it is so much more than that. It's about fun, physical activity, social interaction, mental stimulation, steps*, camaraderie, winning, losing, smiles, laughs, positive attitude, trade recommendations, getting out on a cold winter evening and kicking a ball about with a new mate, curry nights, plumbing advice and of course health. Walking Football brings players together with a mutual love of the game but they are people too and they are the bond that bind the group and make it so much more social than just a footie match.
We've seen the Newport Pagnell group grow and mature since those six brave souls took to the astroturf at Ousedale School on a very cold January evening in 2018. That winter we braved the "beast from the east", nobody faltered, in the summer we transferred to the grass at Willen Road and we enjoyed balmy summer evenings in the sun rolling back the years.
It's very much a pleasure to organise and play games with such a nice relaxed group on a Monday night and amazing that two years will have passed by in little over a month's time.
Last week we reached a milestone and managed to play a mini five a side tournament that included 20 players ranging in age from 16 to 79 - I only said it was aimed at ages 50 + we welcome younger players - and I think it's safe to say it was thoroughly enjoyed by all.
So to summarise, if you fancy an enjoyable game of footie, that isn't going to leave you aching for a week, if you're looking to get back into a sport that you thought had left you behind or you just want to meet a few new mates then get your trainers on and join us on a Monday night at 8pm, Ousedale School, Newport Pagnell.
*our Fitbit wearers claim between 5000 and 7000 steps per session