IT’S football, but not as you know it . . .
Walking football has been launched by a local council in a bid to get elderly or injured players back on the pitch.
The slowed-down version of the beautiful game has the same rules as its speedier counterpart, with a couple of exceptions – running or jogging will cost you a free kick.
The new craze has been designed to get over-50s on their feet and playing a version of the game at a pace they can handle.
And while it might sound easy, the game requires particular skills, such as precision passing and tight ball control, according to Hibs hero Jackie McNamara Snr, who says he mastered the techniques needed under legendary boss Eddie Turner. He is one of several veterans kick-starting the game for people who struggle with pace, or have had to hang up their boots due to injury.
“You don’t need to have the pace but it’s all about the control and vision, seeing a pass, and playing it to feet,” he said. “If you don’t play it to their feet, they won’t be able to run for it.
“Eddie Turnbull had us playing it back in the day. He was an innovator who was great at trying new things. He had us playing it every week or two in training. It was beneficial because you couldn’t run so you’d have to think and play to feet.
“You’re desperate to run for it because you want to be let off the leash, but you have to be disciplined. I think it’s a great idea for older people who still enjoy controlling and passing the ball. The old joints tend to seize up a bit when you get older, but it doesn’t matter with this.”
Midlothian Council is the first local authority in Scotland to put on the matches at Bayne Memorial Hall, Loanhead.
The first game is free with the weekly sessions then costing £1.
Councillor Bob Constable, cabinet member for public services and leisure, said: “This is a fantastic idea for the over-50s to get out into the fresh air and get fit and we are proud to be the first in Scotland trialling this new type of sport. This is part of Midlothian Council’s Ageing Well project which aims to get older people out and about and taking up more sport for their health and wellbeing.”