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Walking football is a modified version of soccer which is rapidly gaining popularity among the over fifties age group.
Since its inception in 2011, more than 800 clubs have already been set up in the UK.
Australia is following suit with Football Federation Australia planning to establish 110 walking football hubs across the country in the coming year.
64-year-old Alan Templeton thought football was over for him when he tore his calf muscles nine years ago.
But as soon as he heard of a walking version of the sport that is tailored for folks aged over fifty like him, he’s found the reason to smile again.
“I’m more outgoing. Even though I was working, I just felt a little bit isolated out of work hours that I didn’t have any outlet like I was used to with playing football. So as soon as walking football came along, after playing three months, I felt fitter, I felt a lot better within myself both physically and mentally.”
Since then, all Templeton wanted was to motivate others to share his passion for walking football.
Originally a development coach at Brisbane Roar, Templeton now works as Football Queensland’s Walking Football coordinator.
He explains why the modified version of soccer is getting popular around the world.
“Obviously it’s no running so therefore it’s less impact on your body. You have quicker recovery time in the days that follow. You can walk up to 10,000 steps easily here in 2 hours.”
Players aged from their late forties through to seventies are getting ready for their weekly social game at the Brisbane City Indoor Sports Centre.
Some are retirees and some had to start work extra early to make it for the two-hour lunch time session.
Among them is 65-year-old Adele, the only female player and the newest to the game.
“It gets me moving with a purpose. I suppose I’ve got a bit of a competitive nature and so it does that..." she explains.
67 year-old retiree Wally Vicog started playing soccer in 1963.
A life member of his local club, Vicog was pleasantly surprised to reignite his passion since discovering walking football over a year ago.
Bond University’s associate professor in exercise and sports science Justin Keogh says while there has been little study done on walking football due to its relative novelty, the slower format and the non-contact nature of walking football makes it a safer sport for older people in contrast to something like the Masters Aussie Rules Footy.
It may be a gentler form of soccer but Dr Keogh suggests getting medical clearance from your medical practitioner before delving into the sport if you’re not used to regular exercise.
He believes healthy ageing requires time and effort.
“So the big thing is finding something that is physically and socially engaging that they’re likely to maintain for the rest of life and while any activity might not be something that can continue forever if someone can play from 40 to 70 years of age something like walking football, well, that’s a great way to be active through that stage of your life.”
57-year-old Colin Yu still wears knee guards after a motorcycle accident more than 30 years ago. But he has no problem kicking a ball around the modified indoor court.
“Because the rule is people will have to walk instead, not running, so there will be a bit less impact on my knee when I move around. More a bit relaxed because sometimes your mind still thinks you can do that and you push your body a bit further than you could.”
As for Adele, playing is to get fitter at her age whilst having fun.
One thing’s still missing though...“I would love to get another lady on the team. I really would.” says Adele.