Last Saturday saw the last of four Over 50’s England walking football trials, this time at Solihull Walking Football Centre near Birmingham. Thirty more of the country’s best players were nominated by their clubs, along with a few other hopefuls who were prepared to sit on a waiting list in case of no shows or injuries on the day, such was the passion of these guys in an attempt to make selection of the inaugural England team.
The players were once again teamed up for matches and given various scenarios including different pitch sizes to see how they responded both individually and as a team. The England Management team were not disappointed! The trialists showed resilience and respect in adhering to the WFA referee decisions and the whole event finished injury free!
Manager Paul Murtagh said, “The game of Walking Football has been growing exponentially over the last few years with a further noticeable increase in participations levels over the last 12 months and we have been delighted by the response and attendance of these trials. The quality of the players has also been a pleasant surprise and the enormity of the task we now have to select a squad from so many quality players is really starting to sink in. May I take this opportunity to announce our first international match against Italy on the 13th May at Brighton and Hove Albion’s, Amex Stadium. In light of this very recent development we would say to all selected for the next stage that they will need to be committed over the coming weeks if they are to represent their country.
On reflection, at all of the trials we have been immensely pleased and privileged to have witnessed such an extremely high standard. All of the players in attendance have shown great attitude and enthusiasm towards the process. Demonstrating dignity and respect to other opponents, with a healthy level of competition combining to produce and embrace the true ethos of walking football.
The feedback we have received during this new venture has only been positive. Players expressing feelings of enjoyment and pride in being involved, including the buzz of opportunity to rise to the challenge and play amongst the best players in the country. Irrespective of backgrounds and experience people have been brought together, they have put club rivalries to one side, played with a smile on their face and shared a joke at the end. We hope that new friendships and associations are also formed as a result. Surely that’s what it’s all about!
Whether you agree or disagree with the whole procedure it’s all about choice and opportunity for all. If one person has enjoyed a day at the trials then all the hard work has been worth it. With the exposure the trials have created maybe others will be inspired to take up the game irrespective of age or ability.
This international walking football initiative has been a trailblazing opportunity for all involved, hopefully this new venture contributes to further develop the game at different levels both at home and abroad. I would like to take this opportunity to thank all the clubs and their players for their support. Also, the referees, that have received much acclaim for their professionalism throughout. The venues and staff that have helped facilitate the trials and special thanks to the voluntary support of my management team and the support of the over 60’s team including all involved at the WFA”
Thanks to Brian Keates for the photos