Chris van Schaick tries his hand at walking football at South Downs College

Getty Images/Creatas RF

Getty Images/Creatas RF - Credit: Getty Images/Creatas RF

Chris van Schaick is walking back to happiness this month as he discovers he can enjoy his favourite sport at a slightly more laid back pace

When I tell people I’ve been having a go at walking football, they have one of three reactions. Some people say: “Oh, yes, I’ve seen that on YouTube.” Some people look flummoxed and say “What?” Mrs v. S., as she often does, says: “That’s desperately unsexy.”

Walking football is one of those refreshingly rare things: it’s exactly what it sounds like. It is small-sided football but with the crucial rule that the players are only allowed to move at walking pace. Break into a trot, never mind a run, and the ref blows for a foul. The manoeuvring that’s needed exercises the brain as well as the legs.

Of course, it tends to be played by a more senior kind of player. To put it into medical terms, those of us who now have a little less forced vital capacity (puff) or elasticity in the anterior cruciate ligament (bendy knees) than we had a year or two ago.

I had the privilege of trying out walking football on the artificial greensward of South Downs College, under the auspices of Havant and Waterlooville Football Club. Nice chaps, enjoying their footy and lapping up the health and feel-good benefits that goes with gently working up a light sweat.

My hope is that this walking football will prepare me for a return to the full speed game I played up until 10 years ago. When I tried a one off match of proper football last year, I ended up in the consulting room of my friendly physiotherapist.

“Well,” he said, studying my knees. “I’d say it’s somewhere between extreme fatigue and mild trauma.”

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But even if walking football doesn’t allow me my shot at redemption, I wonder if it could trigger off a re-alignment of the wider sporting universe. Walking tennis? Replacing the furry yellow Slazengers with beach balls might be worth a try. What about walking Formula One? The drivers would have to push their cars round Silverstone, as if they’d run out of petrol. That’d be a proper test of Lewis Hamilton.

I also think it’s time for Tom Daley to come to terms with walking diving. Instead of flinging himself off the platform, he could walk very quickly down the steps. They could still give him marks for technique, body shape, level of difficulty and all that stuff.

In my imagined re-shaping of sport, the competitions that are already based on walking would, in reverse, become running ones. Golf would be over in half the time. Croquet could suddenly become an aerobic sport; and wouldn’t darts be so much more of a spectacle if they took a hundred metre run up?

For now this must all remain no more than reverie. Mrs. v. S. thinks I’m a wimp and should get straight back into the full speed game. But that’s for the future. At the moment, my love affair with playing football is a simple story of walking back to happiness.



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