A new national Walking Football program, aimed at older Australians, was launched in Canberra today by Football Federation Australia (FFA) in partnership with Sport Australia and Active Ageing Australia.
The program will deliver more than one million hours of sport and activity over the next two years, improving participants’ physical health, mental wellbeing and social connections.
Walking Football is a small-sided, low-impact, modified version of the game, suitable for all levels of ability and fitness, from people who are returning to sport after a break or those who’ve never played before.
FFA Chief Executive David Gallop AM said Walking Football was adaptable and affordable.
“The time, location, venues and numbers on each team can be adapted depending on the needs of participants in each area,” Mr Gallop said.
“We also want to make this program affordable to encourage as many older Australians as possible to participate. It’s all about getting active, having fun and making new friends.
“In the United Kingdom there are more than 800 Walking Football clubs and we’re optimistic Australians will love this modified version of the World Game too,” he said.
The program Walking Football One Million+ is being funded by the Australian Government, and Minister for Aged Care & Senior Australians and Youth & Sport, Senator the Hon Richard Colbeck, said it was a great initiative to help older Australians get more active and socially connected through modified sport.
“Football is Australia’s number one club-based participation sport, now we have this fantastic Walking Football program to expand participation opportunities for older Australians who love their football or just want a fun new way to get active,” Minister Colbeck said.
“Walking Football provides a safe, slow-moving and enjoyable version of football that can be played by anyone, irrespective of fitness levels or football experience. It’s non-contact and low impact which makes it ideal.
“The fun and social aspect is just as important as the physical health benefits. Pilot programs have shown it’s a great way to make new friends and reduce social isolation, with many of the participants meeting up outside game times.”
Walking Football will start soon with programs in New South Wales, Victoria, Queensland, Western Australia and the ACT. Pilot programs will also commence in South Australia, Tasmania, Northern Territory and Northern NSW.
There will be 110 hubs established in the first 12 months, growing to 148 in the second year, with more than 6,000 players expected to take to field.
As well as structured matches, activity coordinators will be appointed in each hub to advise participants on training exercises for home which include stretching and balance exercises.
Active Ageing Australia Chief Executive Melanie Smith said: “We are delighted to be working in partnership with Football Federation Australia on this truly innovative program which will create new visions and possibilities for actively ageing.”
“It will enable whole of life participation. It will challenge stereotypes. It will create joy, build confidence and improve the health and quality of life for thousands of older Australians.”
How Walking Football is played:
- Running is not allowed. A participant always has to have one foot on the ground.
- It is a non-contact version of the game.
- The ball cannot be kicked above head height.
- There is no heading of the ball.
- There are no ‘referees’ as such and the competitive angle is kept to a minimum.
- The focus is on fun and making friends.