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New Craze of Walking Football Comes to Whaley Bridge

Men of a certain age may think that their days of playing soccer are over but that's no longer the case thanks to the new sport of Walking football which hit Whaley Bridge in March this year.

Walking football is a variant of association football that aims to keep men over 50 involved in the sport. Although it was started in 2011 it really came to prominence last year when the game was featured in a Barclays Bank television advert.

However, Mick Owen, who runs the Whaley Bridge sessions, was a convert long before this having started sessions in Gamesley three years ago. He said: "At first these were indoors and it didn't really take off until we moved outside to the artificial pitch at Glossopdale Community College."

Thanks to the success of that venture High Peak Borough Council provided some public health cash to set up a group in Whaley Bridge which got off the ground in March.

Mick said "Whaley Bridge Town Council also support us and we use their 3G pitch which is the best that I have ever played on." He added:  “Our first customers came through a mention in the town council's newsletter.”

Whaley Walking footballers with members of the town council plus cheerleaders

Currently the group has about 14 members aged from 50 to 70 plus who play every Wednesday afternoon on the pitch at the Memorial Park. Mick said: “We have an hour session from 2-3pm. We have a proper warm-up and then play for 20 minutes. After that we stop for a drink and natter and then start again. It’s not too vigorous and it's a cracking way to get exercise as you find yourself working quite hard without realising it.”

Barry, who at 57 is one of the younger players, originally heard about Walking football on the radio. His doctor had advised him to lose weight so he was looking for ways to be active. After his first session he said: “My legs were a bit sore the next morning because of the unaccustomed fast walking but not as sore as my sides where I'd laughed so much.” Since then Barry has been a regular at Memorial Park and has lost two and a half stone. 

The rules of Walking football specify that if a player runs then it is a free kick to the other side and slide tackles are also banned to avoid injuries. However, it is the social aspect of the sport as well as the physical side that Mick who runs WellFit CIC, a not-for-profit social enterprise company, is keen to promote. He said: “One of the strengths of walking football is that it is a place for men to go so that they don't sit on the sofa all day. Often men's social groups are at work so that when work ends they lose purpose.”

Thanks to local pub ‘The Drum and Monkey’ the walking footballers now have their very own stylish black kit. Mick said: “They sponsored it which was very generous of them.” The new look was given a public airing in July when Mick challenged the town council to a friendly match. Although no one was exactly sure which side won a good time was had by all.

Anyone who wants to try the game can just turn up to one of the Wednesday sessions which cost £2, or ring Mick on 07944 605508. There is no need to worry about what to wear as Mick said: “Guys play in the shoes they  walk the dog in and come in their gardening clothes. However, if you want to wear full replica kit you can. One guy turns up every week in full Manchester United gear.”