New friendships, better levels of fitness and improving mental health – these are all reasons why elderly people are getting involved in Walking Football.
The sport was introduced to help encourage those over the age of 50 to get involved in the game they all know and love, and to help them keep fit and healthy.
The traditional game has been slowed down with specific rules to ensure the safety of all the players due to their age.
Now, many tournaments are being introduced for the over 60’s age category. In Derby, the most recent over 65’s tournament took place last month.
Derby Powerleague hosted the tournament featuring six teams in and around the city: Etwall, Heanor, Matlock, Alfreton, Ashbourne, and Willows.
With goals featuring in every fixture played, the highest-scoring game finished in a 9-0 win for Ashbourne against Heanor.
However, walking football isn’t just about the results. Every player is there for a reason, whether it is simply to keep fit and have fun, to something prescribed from their doctor to help an injury, or for mental health reasons, according to Paul Jackson, organiser, secretary, and goalkeeper for the Heanor team.
“Everyone who plays walking football has a story,” he said.
“You can talk to anyone here and I can guarantee that there is a good reason that they are here.
“I know people here because they have sadly lost their partners and taking part gives them that feel of company and friendship. Then, there are others here who originally took up the sport as a recovery activity from an operation or injury and then have continued coming back as they enjoyed playing so much.”
After taking part in the sport originally, simply to just regain mobility and physical fitness from a kidney operation, Matlock’s Luca Morry now plays two to three times a week and intends to until his body can no longer take it.
Luca explains: “Three years ago, my wife needed an urgent kidney transplant and I gave her one of mine. She was very ill, and I wanted to help her.
“After my operation, I was told to try and get in the gym and do some light exercise and I like to keep fit and healthy anyway. I saw walking football was around the corner from where we live and decided to take part and haven’t looked back since.”
Thankfully, Luca’s wife is recovering well at home after her operation and is enjoying a new lease of life.
“She’s fantastic, our daughter comes and takes her to her appointments and then shopping afterwards, looks after her when I want to play tournaments like these that last a lot of a day,” he added.
Luca is just one of many of the players who has also made new friends since taking up the sport. Resident driver to tournaments and Luca’s best friend, Terry White, described his passion for football.
“I love it here, the fantastic game of Football, what isn’t there to love?” he said.
“New friendships, partnerships, and company when travelling for tournaments and events. Being a part of this hasn’t just made me feel younger and bettered my health, but also, [it has] given me new friends for life that I thought wasn’t possible at my age,” added Terry.