An imaginative and increasingly popular method of keeping fit – and having fun – is available down at your local football club.
The rules of the beautiful game are being subverted in quite a brazen way – but Walking Football is providing an enjoyable and laughter-filled bout of exercise for a very enthusiastic group.
It’s a good laugh and good for comradeship. No one takes it too seriously.Scott Wallace, coach
It’s kind of as it sounds – football played at walking pace.
That said, if you give it a try, you may be surprised at how much you move about and how much energy you expend when you’re meant to be walking.
But such is the friendliness and good humour of the set-up at East Fife FC that, if you were to have a go, you’d find it to be an hour very enjoyably spent.
Aimed primarily at men aged over 35, the Walking Football sessions at Bayview began eight weeks ago, as part of a programme of light exercise and physical health advice provided by FFIT – Fife Fans In Training – which had teamed up with East Fife Youth Academy.
It’s allowed a number of local men on the other side of 40 and 50 to take some exercise in a slightly unconventional sense, maybe shed a bit of excess weight – and for those who’d played football enthusiastically in their younger, more capable days, it’s given them a route back into the game they love.
However, as the Fife Free Press Group’s Ralph Mellon found out, you don’t have to be an experienced footballer to join in.
The ‘different’ approach to the game makes the 60-minute sessions quite intriguing – you often have a bit more time on the ball and, while you may not be running, you still cover a lot of ground.
And, because fun is a big element, nobody gets too enraged with their team mates if passes go astray.
The sessions at Bayview – thought to be among the first in Fife – take place on the training ground beside the stadium on Wednesdays from 7.30pm-8.30pm and the coaches are hoping more men will come forward to give it a try. Numbers have dwindled a bit, with a few regular players employed offshore or having other work commitments .
But there is still an eager core group who turn up, assisted by coaches Scott Wallace, Mike Lindsay and David Smith.
The size of the pitch is shrunk or expanded depending on numbers and, as Scott said: “The guys that come along love it. The banter is great and it’s complete laugh, from start to finish.”
Some people possibly had the idea it was maybe not for them or they were too unfit, he added.
“But the work you put in, you will benefit from. It’s a very relaxing environment and it’s a total laugh.”
The Bayview regulars include John Walker (44), of Kennoway, who played as a trialist for East Fife in 1986; goalkeeper Stewart Yanetta (49) of Denbeath, who played in pub leagues and leisure leagues; plus Colin Cameron (55) of Leven, and others.
Walking football was featured recently on television, which gave a handy insight into it, said the players, most of whom saw it as a way to “lose some poundage” and basically get fitter again.
“It’s a good laugh and good for comradeship,” they said. “No one takes it too seriously.”
Now, a number of professional clubs are engaged in it, while East Fife’s coaches have had talks about maybe joining a more official set-up.
If you’re interested, contact Scott Wallace at firstname.lastname@example.org
Give yourself a sporting chance
Back in the early 1970s, I, like many other wee boys, was utterly obsessed with playing football and wanting to play for Scotland.
But it became obvious, even with my age barely into double figures, that it would never happen. Because I was atrocious.
I had bags of desire, but no talent, ball skill, tactical awareness or natural ability.
However, Walking Football is a version of the game that could be enjoyed by virtually everyone, regardless of how good – or bad – you once were or when you last played.
As you might imagine, it’s pretty tricky to stick constantly to walking – it’s impossible not to break into at least a darting forward movement now and then, but the principle is adhered to – most of the time – by the participants.
Those who do run are more the subject of friendly scorn than disciplinary action.
The peculiar pace of the game also means defensive and attacking moves, and shots at goal, are often constructed in a bizarre way.
However, as was the case last Wednesday at Bayview, flashes of genuine skill are there in abundance – some of these guys played at senior level, after all. And there’s a constant barrage of wisecracks, so you won’t feel intimidated.
East Fife’s Walking Football sessions do need more support – and they’re well worth your time.
Exercise is at its best when it doesn’t feel like exercise.