Walking football brings men back on to the pitch

In the last year, a new sporting initiative has developed down at Station Road where sporting enthusiasts gather regularly on Friday evenings.

Following the national trend for “walking football”, Oundle Town Football Club now has a team for men over 50 who have a passion to play football, but cannot keep up with the same intensity of the game they played in their youth.

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While some purists might question whether this qualifies as “proper football”, Mark Rogers, an active participant, is in no doubt. “When you say ‘proper football’, we’ll have this as ‘proper football’! The other sport… You know, they run too much!”

Walking football was developed in 2011 with a full set of competitive rules compiled by the Football Association. It has grown gradually and now has teams across the country. The Walking Football Association was established in 2016 and says that with over 40,000 players in the UK, walking football is the fastest growing sport aimed at over-50 year olds, with regional tournaments and even a national cup.

The Oundle club has participated in a series of friendlies and tournaments held in nearby towns. But according to Mr Chris Biggins, the part-time player-manager who is in charge of the team, this variation of football is not entirely about competition: “It is important that people who have played football earlier in life can keep playing. Ideally you would like to win your game, but not at all costs. It’s about enjoyment.”

Enjoyment is indeed a key feature of Friday evenings. Although there is a registration system, the organisation each Friday evening is more or less ad-hoc, with new members joining every now and then. The team does not receive funding from the Club and is supported by the £3 dues players contribute each week.

Every member shows up ready for fun, and after an evening session of usually 6-a-side football, the team retire to the clubhouse pub to “recover”.

Mr Rogers said: “Walking football is a lot about getting fat old men off the settees and doing something, participating in a sport or something social. Men are not particularly good at, for instance, going to the doctor and looking after themselves.

“A big part of this sport is to encourage men to exercise again.”

Jerry Li
December 2018