IT MAY not have the searing pace of today’s Premier League superstars – but walking football is getting players of yesteryear from Wearside back on the pitch and enjoying the game.
The veterans sport is set to take off in Sunderland after activity bosses put together weekly sessions for players.
Thanks to a cash grant from Active Sunderland, players are getting involved in the game at the Seaburn Centre on the city’s sea front, with interest growing every week.
A coach takes those getting involved through the basics of the modified sport, with its rules differing from normal football.
As the name suggests, walking football, aimed at those over 55, is non-contact and anyone that sprints, runs or jogs while the ball is in play can be penalised with a free-kick awarded to the other team.
Organiser and vice president of Durham County FA, Peter Maguire, is one of those lacing up his trainers every week for the sessions.
“We started at the beginning of November and then I applied for a grant from the council to get things going,” said the 63-year-old.
“They’ve agreed to eight weeks of funding and it’s doing well.
“The first sessions we had about 11 people turning up and since then it’s been a variation.
“We advertised it through the Echo last week and there’s another five here today, with three more coming next week.”
Peter added that players are hoping to increase interest in the sport in the coming months.
“It’s great exercise and a really good workout for the lads,” he said.
“We’ve been talking about setting up leagues but we aren’t at that stage yet.
“The intention is just to see how it goes over the next few weeks.”
Bill Miller, of Seaburn Dene, says he’s keen to sign up to play after seeing the game advertised on television.
“I’ve come down to have a look and I’d really like to get involved,” said Bill, 70.
“I played and refereed for years and it’s something I want to get back into.
“I’m quite surprised by how many people are here, so it’s clearly popular.”
Simon Wardle, Active Sunderland delivery officer, said: “We already have a successful walking programme in the city, but walking football has really taken off nationally.
“It’s a really good opportunity for the lads to get into something different.
“For some of them, it’s been 16 years since they last kicked a ball.”
To find out more about walking football sessions at the Seaburn Centre, call Peter on 548 1563 or 07545549830.