The beautiful (walking) game

From the Guardian:

As a 73 year old with a serious heart condition, retired electrician Keith Salmon thought his football playing days were well behind him.

He had to give up five-a-side games in his 50s when the pace became too much, and he’d grown used to taking it easy. “I’d be sitting around at home reading the paper or watching the television, being bone idle,” he sayd.

That was until he started playing walking football. Now it’s the highlight of his week, and on a crisp morning on a semi-frozen astro pitch outside Newcastle-under-Lyme, Salmon is rubbing his hands in anticipation of another kickabout with the Chesterton Crusaders. “I absolutely love it,” he says.

Salmon is one of thousands of older men who have rediscovered the joys of playing football again through a sport that makes the basic elements of a match accessible to them by slowing the game down. Walking football, which is supposed to involve a free kick every time a player runs, was only invented six years ago and already there are 225 registered clubs all over the country, with new sessions springing up every week.

The pace of walking football may be more leisurely, but the game is still fierce, which is the way Salmon likes it. That and the camaraderie. “They’re all smashing lads,” Salmon says of his mostly grey-haired teammates.

A brilliantly simple idea.

Barclays – yes, the bank – gets the credit for causing interest in the beautiful walking game to explode after featuring the activity in an advert.

Read the whole piece, here.