From humble beginnings to the FA Peoples Cup Finals
Walking football started in Wiltshire on a cold Oct afternoon in 2014 at Stanley Park, Chippenham with just 10 players. Three of the original ten are still playing including Tony Norton who has been the driving force behind its growth as a volunteer working alongside the Wilts FA, Wiltshire Council and Swindon Borough Councils who have supported its growth in the county.
There are now 14 sessions a week across the County with 470 registered players and average 800 attendees a month playing the sport, which is aimed at keeping men and women over 50 active through sport.
A small amount of players have now ventured into festivals, friendlies and tournaments, local, national and even abroad. Last year saw the group 2017 finish fourth in a very strong 32 European team tournament in Almelo Holland, whilst the 60plus squad made it to the National Walking Football finals in Solihull.
Towards the end of last year Tony Norton and Keith Davis founded the Wiltshire Walking Football Club, which has 50 members. The obvious choice for a base was Stanley Park, whose management team under Pete Hussey remain fully supportive of the development of walking sports. They train once a month with families encouraged to attend for a social get together afterwards.
This year they entered the FA Peoples Cup, the largest Walking Football comp in the Country which is run by the English FA and the BBC. On Saturday March 24th they took part in the Semi Finals group and defeated 2017 FA Champions Wokingham in the final of the competition. On the weekend of April 28th/29th they will be off to St Georges Park, home of the England Team, to take part in the National Final where the top eight teams out of over 200 will compete to be the 2018 FA Peoples Cup Walking Football Champions.
In May the squad will be returning to Almelo to see if they can improve on their fourth place finish this time aided by their first female player to play in the tournament.
As one of the sports focused at helping the 50 plus generation keep active through adopting a walking version of the game the success of the group of players is down to the combined efforts of its volunteers and the support they receive from both the Wiltshire FA and two local authorities.
As one of the squad said, “Having reached 55 I didn’t think I’d still be playing football, never mind playing in the finals of a National Tournament as part of what the 60+ team see as the youth development squad.”