VIDEO: Players get their kicks from new walking football sessions
A new football craze is coming to the region, but it's not simply a walk in the park.
While the nation’s favourite sport seems to favour the faster and most athletic players, one group in Ollerton is giving running the red card, having started up a regular walking football session. It’s what you’d expect from the semi-serious kickabout, two teams, two sets of bibs, two goals and two halves, but the only real difference, as you’ve probably guessed, is that running is banned.
In fact, it usually means a freekick for your opponents.
So, that means no more long balls to chase down or keeping up with that tricky winger (unless he can walk quicker than you, of course).
The popularity of the lower-impact game has surged across the country in recent years from its humble beginnings in Chesterfield, of all places, in 2011.
It was initially designed to give retired players a chance to get back out on to the pitch, but it’s becoming popular among other demographics.
With free weekly sessions at Ollerton’s Dukeries Leisure Centre, interest is gathering pace, even if the players involved, aren’t.
It’s part of a fitness drive by Newark and Sherwood District Council’s Active 4 Today team, to encourage people to get out of their armchairs and do 30 minutes of exercise a week.
Dave Long, who is running the sessions, said: “Walking football was one of the sports we do, we set it up in Newark and it had success, so we wanted to replicate that.
“It’s open to everybody - older people, young, female or anyone with a disability. The great thing about walking football is that at the pace it is played, anybody can join in.”
Thursday’s session involved three against three, with two looking on from the sidelines having shown an interest in joining in for future weeks.
The ages on the indoor pitch range from 17 to 70, and while the electric pace is notably absent, the game is far from being pedestrian.
Without the opportunity to hotfoot it past an opponent, finding space and quick-thinking passes and movement are essential.
“It’s a bit quicker than you think,” says Dave, taking a quick break.
“It’s like the rules of competition walking, the toe or the heel has to be on the floor at any one time, but you can still beat a player if you get half a yard on them.
“But because you can’t run, there’s a lot more thinking involved.
“I’ve been coaching for some time and have my UEFA licence but I’m new to this, although you get used to it quite quickly.
“There’s the social element as well, where else would you get a 17 and 70-year-old mixed together playing?”
The game’s popularity is such that only last week the FA announced it would draft a rule book to iron out any disputed laws.
But the good spirit and camaraderie is in place at Dukeries, as are some impressive flicks, backheels and deft touches.
Nobody is keeping track of the score, but that doesn’t mean they each don’t want to get the better of their opponent.
The eldest on the pitch is 70-year-old David Bellamy from Rufford Park, who says the game has given him a new lease of sporting life.
Like many keen players, he has not kicked a ball in anger since his 30s.
He explained: “My friend asked if I’d heard of it and I said ’no’, so I went to the one in Newark and I loved it and now I can’t get enough of it.
“I’ve lost a stone since I began playing and it’s great exercise.
“I’m 70 but I’m still competitive - I wouldn’t be able to run for 30 minutes but I can walk it.
“It’s good because even though you’re not running, you have to look for space all of the time.”
For more information, people can contact Helen Ellison on 01636 655701 or email [email protected]
Alternatively, players can simply go along to the weekly sessions at the Dukeries Leisure Centre every Thursday from 1.15pm to 2pm.