Think of football; the high-speed, high-intensity game that everyone knows. Now, think of playing that game, but without running! Walking football is a variation of regular football, just with this little twist.
Even though a walking football session is played at a slower pace, this fun game is becoming increasingly popular throughout the whole world, and less intense so it is open to those who thought they had already retired from the game they love.
The walking football game was created specifically for the older generation, featuring age-appropriate and simple rules designed with health and safety in mind. In order to prevent unnecessary contact, tackling is only allowed with no contact, and kicking should never go over the head.
A typical six-a-side game is played on small fields with small goals. You can also play walking football indoors, on 3G/4G artificial grass pitches, or on natural grass.
History Of Walking Football
This variation of football is fairly new and was created in 2011 by John Croot. Even though this is the case, walking football did not gain much public attention until 2014 when Steve Rich saw an ad promoting the game. He was an ex-Sunday League player who was forced to give up his soccer career due to a car crash.
Steve Rich was inspired to create a website after seeing the ad. He wanted to do this so that local teams could connect and play walking football across the United Kingdom.
While it was first played in Scotland, walking football is now commonly known in 53 countries throughout the world. As of now, there are over 1,000 active clubs in the UK, with more than 60,000 players participating in England alone. Even though this sport is aimed at people over age 50, anybody can enjoy playing it.
Walking Football Rules
Even if people may be familiar with normal soccer rules, walking football rules have slight differences to so you can continue to enjoy football.
The pitch size is 25-37 meters wide by 35-55 meters long. The goal size is 3-5 meters wide and 1.2-2 meters tall. A regulation game is 40 minutes long. Games can be played with 5-a-side up to 7-a-side.
In addition, running and jogging are prohibited by every player and at all points while playing. This means that one foot must be touching the ground at all times (walking pace). If a player gets called for breaking the walking law, the other team receives a free-kick.
Moreover, the ball cannot go higher than head height (which is defined as 1.83 meters or about 6 feet) at any point during the match otherwise a free kick is awarded
Similarly, since this sport is aimed toward older people, physical contact is not allowed at any point during walking football.
Additionally, there are no offsides, and teams cannot score from their own defensive half of the field.
After a goal is scored, just as with normal soccer, the game begins again with a kickoff at the centre of the field.
Zero tolerance for abusive conduct.
If infractions (running, physical contact, high balls, etc.) happen on three separate occasions, a player will receive a blue card and have to sit out for two minutes.
Lastly, depending on the football club that someone plays for, there is commonly a minimum age. Usually, the age for women is less than the minimum age men have to be, but there are different rules all over the world.
The purpose is to make the beautiful game as slow and tranquil as possible. Additional rules are not necessary. It might be appropriate, however, in certain circumstances, such as a low player count, to use 3 touch and rush goalkeepers, as well as only score from within the attacking half.
Players are less likely to get tackled if they have fewer touches. The best advice on how to play and enjoy walking football is to move the ball around the pitch, keep possession, and create space.
Health Benefits Of Walking Football
In addition to being fun to play, walking football helps with mental health since the game is social and can be played with friends and others. A section of the community that is often isolated can now participate in a sport they enjoy, meet new people, and generally, improve their quality of life.
It can also help contribute to physical strength and continue an active lifestyle. In our aging years, many of us will struggle with our balance, strength, stamina, weight, and worst of all, our self-confidence and self-esteem.
Walking Football increases body strength improves muscular growth, improves core stability, and helps lose weight, in addition to boosting one’s self-esteem and confidence.
Walking is a low-impact way to exercise while still getting significant health benefits. According to an article from Mayo Health, even just a short walk can help people maintain a healthy weight, manage various chronic conditions, provide a cardiovascular workout, strengthen bones and muscles, improve cognitive function, help with coordination, support immune health, and reduce stress.
With players potentially walking several miles during a walking football match, it can have a great impact on the health of both the mind and body. It has been shown in independent studies that it can be effective in treating mild to moderate hypertension as well as improving fat oxidation and aerobic capacity with high levels of aerobic activity.
Exercise is far more likely to become a habit when people enjoy it, rather than just seeing it as a chore. Walking soccer is good because it does not have a high risk for injury, unlike normal football. If someone loves the game of soccer but has had a severe injury in the past or is getting older, walking football is a great way to stay involved in the sport.
To avoid injury, ensure you wear suitable indoor soccer shoes to avoid unbalancing and slipping.
Walking Football Is Suitable For Anyone
Men over the age of 50 and women over the age of 40 are eligible to play. Due to the non-contact nature and lack of running, walking football can be played by any age group. Players in their 70s and 80s are now regularly taking part.
In friendly matches and regular club matches, it’s common to have mixed-age teams, but competitive matches have strict age policies. So, your team and the opposition team will only be made up of people your age. They are as follows:
- MEN: Over 50s (50-59), Over 60s (60-69) And Over 70s (70+)
- WOMEN: Over 40s (40-49) Over 50s (50-59) And Over 60s (60+)
In 2018, The Federation of International Walking Football Associations was created. Also known as FIWFA, this group is based in England and is mostly responsible for promoting and protecting the sport internationally.
As stated directly from their website, “The prime roles of the organization will be to promote and govern the sport worldwide, protecting its integrity and inclusivity, establish uniform laws of the game, and to organize international matches and tournaments. We will embrace the highest standards in best practice in our governance, transparency, and accountability.”
World Nations Cup
In May 2022, there will be an inaugural Walking Football World Nations Cup held in Manchester, England, and sponsored by the FIWFA. There will be a maximum of 16 teams for each of the two age groups (over 50’s and over 60’s).
Since no country can enter more than one team per age group, a wide diversity of represented nations across all teams will help make the game more popular around the globe.
Future Of Walking Football
As the knowledge of walking football spreads, and more people start playing it, its popularity will continue to grow internationally. As a generation of people who grew up playing football moves into an older age group, it’s an ideal opportunity for them to continue playing a sport they love in a safer and less intense way.
You and your friends can continue to enjoy the beautiful game at an appropriate walking pace and in a fun environment. You should always play walking football with a smile on your face and with some banter.
Where To Play Walking Football
Contact your local county football association office or governing body to locate local walking football clubs near you. There will be a walking football session happening midweek at a local football club, leisure centre, or community centre.
Age UK has a website dedicated to help you to involved in walking football.
Rhett is an Australian-born, globe trotter who is a UEFA ‘A’ Licence Soccer Coach. With his family, he has traveled and coached soccer in more than 30 countries, while attending World Cups, European Championships, and some of the biggest local derbies in the world!