The Walking Football Association of Iberia – created in 2020 to improve, sustain and support the physical, mental and social wellbeing of older adults through walking football – is looking to get more people involved with the sport across the Iberian Peninsula.
So far, the association has identified a total of seven teams in Portugal – East Algarve, Browns (Vilamoura), SC Farense, Lagos Strollers, Odiáxere, Silver Coast Strollers and Benfica – and a further 27 in Spain.
As Ronnie Waugh from WFAI told the Resident this week, “signing up is easy”.
“All clubs have training sessions once or twice a week and people just have to turn up and they are made welcome. You must be over 50 to play. Ability is not taken into account,” Ronnie said.
Furthermore, both men and women are welcome.
“Women’s teams are in the minority, although we are working towards getting more women involved in walking football,” he said, explaining that the sport is not only fun but helps keep aging adults healthy and active – physically and mentally.
“The health benefits for over 50s are incredible,” Ronnie said, adding that it gives many people the opportunity to play football again and relive their youthful days.
“They can play without fear of injury since walking football is a non-contact and non-aggressive sport. Of course muscle injuries can happen, but injuries of a serious nature are very rare. It has proved a boon in many cases for men who have been suffering depression on their own during confinement,” he explained.
“We have members who had been suffering depression and are happy they made the decision to join us to play football, exercise and join in the banter at the after-session ‘refreshments’.”
However, like so many other sports, walking football has been dealing with the unprecedented challenges posed by Covid-19.
“The pandemic has proved a nightmare for us in many ways,” said Ronnie. “The most obvious is the chaos it caused on the League and Cup causing them to be abandoned due to the ‘confinement’, then the restrictions which closed all the council facilities, many of which are still closed to walking football clubs. There are problems for some clubs with local councils and it is something WFAI are trying to assist with.”
Watch this space for more news on how WFAI is trying to develop the sport in Portugal and Spain. The WFAI is also planning to launch a website soon (www.walkingfootballassociationiberia.com).