WALKING football is far from a stroll in the park.
Just ask Derek Drabble, a 68-year-old former semi-professional footballer who plays for Vintage Celtic.
“I run three miles each day and go to the gym but, after playing walking football, can be as stiff as a board as it is physically demanding and you are using different leg muscles,” explained Derek who played semi-pro as a midfielder for Northern Nomads and Droylsden.
Derek, who serves on the Vintage Celtic committee, says he can easily walk one mile during a 15-minute game of walking football, which again underlines how strenuous it is.
Vintage Celtic was set up by Stalybridge Celtic Community Development in 2015, and initially linked up with Glossop Gentlemen, a walking football group that didn’t play competitively.
It has since evolved from around a dozen people taking part to between 30 and 40 members that range in age between 50 and 84 years – Don Rhodes is the oldest footballer and a regular until 12 months ago.
And in the two years since formation, just over 100 different people have had a go at walking football.
They include Keith Fowler, 65, from Dukinfield, who took up walking football and swimming 18 month ago after being diagnosed with MS.
He has lost 14kg and says walking football has improved his quality of life, explaining: “My consultant says it is helping my mobility.
“If I am sat down, you see I have a tremor, but if I am focusing on football it disappears,” he explained.
Derek added you would never know Keith had MS when you saw him playing football.
Though the sport is targeted at over-50s, Vintage Celtic play in the over-60s section of the Greater Manchester Walking Football League that has 15 teams.
Matches are played once each month at Heywood Sports Village and each team has four 15-minute games.
The league includes teams representing EFL clubs like Bolton Wanderers, Bury, Fleetwood Town and Rochdale along with AFC Blackpool and Chadderton FC from non-league.
Vintage Celtics’ oldest current player is goalkeeper Mike Kieran who is a sprightly 72.
Derek, who first played walking football at Manchester City’s community programme at the Etihad, said: “People have different motivations for taking part, and we can cater for them all.
“For some it may be the only exercise they have done for years, others will do it with a dietary programme and some for lifestyle issues and for others it is a rekindling of their enthusiasm for football.
“They may have played at a reasonable level and they want to carry on competitively.”
Derek added there is not a great deal of difference between the social and competitive side of walking football.
Vintage Celtics won their league earlier in spring and they also triumphed in tournaments in Algarve, Portugal, and Cheshire.
Vintage Celtic train at Great Ashton Academy on Monday (6pm-7pm) and Copley Academy on Wednesday (6pm-7pm).