Walking football is 6-a-side football without any running, heading or contact while tackling. And it’s a game that has exploded over the last few years. For good reasons.
As the running stops older people from enjoying football, removing this barrier makes the ‘beautiful game’ accessible to all age groups.
Walking football is a sport that can be enjoyed by people of any age. Typical participants will be in the 50+ age bracket. This sport has a social side, something many people miss from their younger and more active days.
This guide starts with a look at the history of the game. Next up, the rules and regulations are delved into. My Walking Football guide ends with a look at how you can get involved in playing and the multiple health benefits of the game.
Walking football has been played for the last ten years. It was introduced by the Chesterfield FC Community Trust Programme. Their goal is to improve the health of the elderly in the area.
The sport was ignited by a TV ad for Barclays Bank featuring an ex-Sunday league footballer who was forced to quit football after a car accident. This TV boost saw the number of participants increase dramatically. An incredible number of new walking football clubs formed.
Ten years on from the start, and walking football has become a serious business, with leagues set up across the country. Professional soccer teams now have their own walking football teams. This ‘network effect’ gives you more opportunities than ever to get involved in a local team.
While there is obviously none of the running from the standard game, there are several other rules that set walking football apart – here’s a look:
Kit requirements are not as strict as the standard game. It is recommended that players wear shorts and shirts, due to their breathable nature. The most important equipment you will need is a pair of shin pads and the appropriate footwear. Many people will wear trainers when playing, but it can help if you wear ‘football-specific’ trainers, which offer more stable footing and greater control of the ball.
You can find yourself playing on all different types of surfaces (concrete, carpet, Astro turf and grass), so ensure you have the appropriate footwear for those surfaces. A hat, a cap or gloves might be appropriate, especially when it gets colder around the turn of the year.
If you intend to start your own club, the immediate equipment needed will be balls, two goals, a series of bibs and a whistle.
The remarkable thing about this form of footy is that anyone can do it any time. If you have a football, you can literally go anywhere and try it out. Having given it a go, you might want to get involved in something a little more serious.
Head online and you will quickly find national associations that will help point you to your local team or league. In the UK there is the Walking Football Association, where you’ll find all kinds of information about leagues, competitions, resources, and latest news.
The WFA is the perfect starting point. You can find local clubs, resources for starting out and campaign information for the fight against prostate cancer and other good causes there. Check out https://thewfa.co.uk/ for the latest!
There are multiple health benefits that can come with a regular game of walking football:
Staying active as you hit your 50’s and beyond is vital to ensuring your ‘healthspan’ lasts into your senior years. Combining walking football with regular walks, and the occasional more vigorous workout involving strength training or high intensity interval training is ideal.
If you’ve reached an age where physical exercise is a little tougher, but you still have that competitive spirit, walking style football is the perfect sport. Designed for men over 50 and women over 40, this fast-growing sport has grown fast – and continues to draw in new players.
While we are unlikely to be sat in crowded bars watching the ‘Walking World Cup’ on TV any time soon (though there are international teams!) – there is potential for millions of players around the world to get a healthy dose of active, social, fun!
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