When one of the newest sports to hit the city was brought to the attention of team SMO, we couldn’t help but wonder exactly how the beautiful game was going to be played, and by whom.
Walking Football was introduced to Hull around 2 years ago, and has grown significantly in popularity with around 5 -10 players at its inception, to a now growing number of sessions around the city with around 25 players regularly turning up to Haltemprice on a Wednesday morning.
Introduced by the FA’s Just Play programme, a scheme designed to get people simply ‘kicking about’ on a flexible basis, Walking Football is now being played all around the East Riding as well as in Grimsby and up the East to North Yorkshire coast. Walking Football has its own set of rules which are pretty simple – not to run or jog, and to be played by over 50s with some exceptions to this rule including 19-year-old Scott who has a heart condition but loves to play.
Upon first impression, it is clear that the game is very active, as are the players, many with sweat pouring down their faces. The players are also itching to run which is tough when you’re passing a ball or chasing down the wing. On occasions, for those who remember it was like a flashback from the ministry of funny walks!
As the game develops, two things are evident, one is the foot skills still required to play. The nature of the game and rule structure makes the traditional pass and tackle interesting and challenging. Even at a more mature age, its still relatively easy to see which chaps were the stars in their heyday.
Secondly, is what the game means for these men and the passion they have for it. Geoff, Chairman of Cottingham Rangers a Walking Football player and supporter, told us that the players mostly look forward to the ‘banter’ and for many, its an opportunity to get out and meet new friends, with some being retired or even widowed – and ultimately the highlight of their week.
The chaps we met at Ferriby and Haltemprice this week couldn’t have been happier. The sessions involved banter, laddish arguing, good old team spirit and most of all a true love for football. Like a bunch of big kids, these gents just want to play footie and inject a little fitness into their lives.
Walking Football is not for the faint hearted that’s for sure. When I enquired where they play if it rains the answer was; ‘right here, we are men’.
If you or a relative or friend are interested in joining a session, visit the Just Play Website where you will definitely be warmly welcomed, on a flexible basis – and and did we mention the free Mars Bar? Nom Nom.