Known as ‘walking football’, it was ideated for men over 50 so that they can still enjoy fun soccer despite their frailty.
Running on the pitch for this soccer game will draw a foul. Relax — that’s the keyword, innit? — it, after all, is not your usual kind of soccer.
What Is It Then?
Known as ‘walking football’, it was ideated for men over 50 so that they can still enjoy fun soccer despite their frailty. Resembling more like a 5-a-side than the usual 11 a side deal, this is a great motivation for the elderly to exercise and socialise. This low impact way of playing football is easy on the lungs and the knees, and one which minimises injury risk in a game setup, is indeed a novel way of keeping fit — both physically and mentally.
Really, Is It Popular?
It was actually a 2014 TV commercial by one of UK’s most prestigious banks that set the ball its popularity rolling. Inspired by it, an ex-Sunday League player, Steve Rich, waylaid by a car accident launched the WFU website to connect with similar teams across the UK. He was flooded with inquiries by thousands of elderly men regarding similar clubs in their respective localities. Notably, Manchester City were the first Premier League club to launch a walking football team.
By 2015 there were about 400 registered walking football clubs (WFCs) in the UK, which doubled to more than 800 within a year. Because of this group spurt, the FA felt prompted to draw or up standardised rules. As of now, there are thousands of teams and sessions all over the UK who regularly feature in over 50s, over 60s and over 70s games. There are some players in their 80s who are regularly known to participate in this game. It has also found favour with women as well, with quite a few women over 40 years taking to it among themselves.
The Rules, They Must Be Different?
There are more than 50 points of the departure from the rules of association football on which it is based. The most important rule is that a foot should be grounded at all times, failing which, a free-kick is automatically awarded to the other side. The ball must not be kicked above head-height. Depending on variations, there may or may not be a goalkeeper. While the outdoor variation uses a traditional football, the indoor variant makes do with a size 4 futsal ball. The standardised playing field is, of course, smaller than the real one.
With big names like Harry Kane, Geoff Hurst, Alan Shearer and Fabrice Muamba, supporting it, a walking football World Cup will be held in Manchester this year.