Football Victoria’s Walking Football program encourages Victorians over 55 from all walks of life to get active and bond over the beautiful game.  

Launched by Football Australia in 2019, Walking Football gets men and women aged over 55 years fit and active. PHOTO: ECCV

The name says it all. Yet the sheer passion, emotion, and excitement that this sport brings also follows with a note of caution from one of today’s Activity Coordinators, who chuckles with bemusement to the group, “This is Walking Football, not running!”

Designed and modified specifically for people over 55, including people who have never played the sport before, Walking Football is a tailored low impact, socially inclusive version of the sport that provides a fun and safe environment for participants.

Launched by Football Australia, in partnership with Sport Australia and Active Ageing Australia in July 2019, Walking Football, is now rolled out through 22 Victorian hubs by Football Victoria.

One of these hubs includes the Featherbrook Walking Football program at Point Cook, a thriving multicultural suburb on the western outskirts of Melbourne, with one of the most culturally diverse groups of participants in the program.

The Australian Government recommends at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity each day for people over 65.

Walking Football participants take full advantage of all the program offers in the 60-minute weekly sessions.

The Australian Government recommends at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity each day for people over 65. PHOTO: ECCV
The program continues to gain popularity among seniors, who can come together, kick a ball around safely and enjoy the game’s proven physical and mental health benefits, and the opportunity to catch up and chat over a cuppa afterwards.

“We treat Walking Football as more of a social program, and people are more confident and active over time,” says Abraham Abraham, Football Victoria’s Program Manager.

Abraham started his professional journey as a volunteer coach for a women’s football university team and has now found his calling through community projects. For the past five years, Abraham’s mission has been empowering, inspiring, and enabling Victorians of all ages and ethnic backgrounds to embrace the world game.

“No matter what program we offer for newly arrived migrants or cultural and diverse communities, whether it is for youth or seniors, we are trying to positively impact their health, friendships, and social skills for their communities,” says Abraham.

Despite some language barriers, a few stray passes, and the braving summer heat, there is plenty of energy, banter and communication on the pitch to rival a suburban football match when the stakes are high.

Activity coordinators Hakeem and Asfaw also bring a wealth of experience from playing, coaching and sharing knowledge for the game they love. They put participants through their weekly paces with warmups, stretch and balance exercises, passing drills and shooting practice.

Once the session is over, they take their time patiently to listen to feedback and receive a popular and modest thank you and round of applause.

“I have a lot of fun with them and am happy to see them laughing. Some of them have never played Football. Week after week, more people are joining and enjoying the program,” says Hakeem.

Walking Football can be a family affair. Couples participate in the program together, and people often bring along their grandkids to bond and connect outside the home through the power of sport.

People come together from big families and different cultures and feel that integration. They are also learning things to teach their grandchildren, as they have something to talk about and relate to.

Albert, who was born in Malaysia, lends a hand every week by translating for community members and volunteering for his local community centre. He speaks highly of the social and health benefits that the program offers.

“I’ve never played soccer before but watched competitions like the World Cup. I drop my grandchildren off at school and come here to exercise well and have made many new friends,” says Albert.

For further information on the Walking Football program, visit the Football Victoria website

To find and join Walking Football in an area near you, visit the Football Victoria website to see all their current projects

This article was published in the
Summer 2023
edition of Golden Years.