Jesus Ruiz, a teacher at a school in Los Palacios y Villafranca, south of Sevilla, was so impressed with walking football when he visited Tavira earlier this year that on returning to Spain he decided to introduce it to his school.
At first the pupils were less than impressed that they were not allowed to run, could only have three touches and physical contact was to be kept to a minimum.
They were encouraged to persevere and after a few sessions the youngsters rated walking football as ‘really cool’.
Jesus added, “everyone was integrated into the game – both boys & girls, skilled & less gifted – so that the games did not become the classic monologue of the children who are the better players monopolising games. Cooperation and team building have been an added bonus”.
The sport has now been included in the curriculum for ages 10 to 12 and involves fifty children who would normally participate less in physical activity.
Walking football also reduces the risk of blows, falls or accidents that frequently occur in normal football.
Chris Wright, who introduced walking football to the Algarve five years ago, said, “this is an advance which can benefit the less able youngsters to achieve self-esteem and encourage greater participation. Who knows we might even take a group of our elderly players to visit the school and play a game or two.”
East Algarve Walking Football relaxes its age barrier of 50+ during the summer months – as long as everyone abides by the rules – and last year three generations of the same family have played walking football together.
Walking Football 60+ years in Olhão has proved a runaway success and there are plans to introduce a 70+ years session next year.
Fun, fitness and friendship are alive and well!