Football while walking is possible!  And the benefits are numerous

Football while walking is possible! And the benefits are numerous

Walking football, a new discipline created in England in 2011, brings together seniors, formerly injured people, and those curious about new sensations around the ball.

In the middle of the sports facilities of the Cité Internationale Universitaire de Paris (14th arrondissement), a football team like no other is having fun. His players sport graying hair but, above all, they don’t run after the ball: they walk! Surprising at first glance. In this variation of the king sport which is played on a five-a-side football field, sprinting and passing or shooting shots sent a little too high are prohibited. Not the jokes: “Next!” Hassan says to one of his evening opponents who has just missed the goal.

This Thursday, nine players responded to the call from Pierre, president of the French Walking Football Association (AFFM). This will therefore be a four against five match. This apparently slightly zany sport comes from a country that is just as crazy: England, where practitioners number in the tens of thousands compared to a thousand on our side of the Channel. “This activity was launched by a certain John Croot, in 2011,” explains Pierre, proudly wearing a jersey bearing the double badge of the French football team while walking (rooster and tricolor flag). If the idea seemed far-fetched to him for a time, this business manager ended up being converted somewhat by chance. At the end of 2019, he noticed that Kylian Mbappé’s nation did not have a team for the Football World Cup while walking. He then decides to register before finding partners for this adventure. Since then, this sport has slowly become more popular. Around fifty clubs have joined the AFFM and regularly organize tournaments.

Every week, Pierre brings together around ten playmates. Everyone is welcome: this activity has the advantage of being conducive to mixed practice. Walking football is intended to be contactless, which helps avoid relapses and injuries while erasing the physical difference between men and women. “I played football for fifteen years until the day I ruptured my knee ligament,” confides Angela, who plays in the French over-50s team. “The problem was that there was no didn’t have space for people coming back from injury to play.”

Physical and mental benefits

Angela, like the other practitioners, is full of praise for the physical and mental benefits of this new sport. At 63, Denis can no longer run and feels “like a kid” on the field. He experiences “a euphoric effect” when he puts on his crampons again: “I feel healthier.” This is not just an impression: a study carried out by two researchers from the University of Southampton (England), in collaboration with a doctor, shows that twelve weeks of practice can reduce the fat mass index and increase players’ stamina. To stay in shape, Denis has also subscribed to the “10,000 steps” goal for two years. With a connected watch on his wrist, Hassan, his teammate for the evening, counts his performances: “In an hour of play, I can sometimes do my 10,000 daily steps.” Especially since behind its calm sport aspect, walking football does not prevent you from moving forward at a high pace, like Olympic walkers. As long as you respect one rule: do not take off both feet at the same time.

In walking football, it is impossible to compensate for a hard pass with a run. “It’s a very technical sport,” John emphasizes. As if to put his words into action, he brushes the ball and hits the top corner. New goal. A shy “how much is that?” is heard. On the ground, no one can answer the question with certainty. The main thing is elsewhere: in the simple pleasure of getting together to hit the leather and do a little exercise. While having fun.

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