There is a footballing life after 40!
Our Finance Director, Elaine, proves you’re never too old for a kickabout as she explains how walking football got her back in the game.
Elaine has always been sporty. After 20 fantastic years playing for various 11-a-side football teams all the banter, camaraderie, training and matches were suddenly over. She continued to play mixed 5-a-side for a few years with her sons and friends but eventually that stopped too.
Then, one night, a chance encounter reignited her passion. “Whilst I was at a tennis match I heard one of the ladies saying “who’s going to football tomorrow night?” which I thought was strange as she was older than me”, Elaine laughs, “Anyway it turns out it was walking football which I must admit I thought sounded dreadful, I couldn’t think of anything worse, but when they asked me if I fancied it I found myself saying yes.”
Elaine decided to give it a go to see what it was like and found, to her delight, it was a mixed session which meant the standard was very varied, from complete beginners to previous recreational players. “It was so nice to be kicking a ball around again and I loved it”, Elaine explains. “It was much quicker than I expected (bordering on running) and the skill level had to still be there as we had matches of 7- or 8-a-side in a small gym.”
Having enjoyed the first session, Elaine found a walking football team nearer to home at Bolton Arena. She booked on with a friend only to find they were the only ladies present.
“You could see all the men looking at us, to be fair they made us feel very welcome, but I think they were worried that we were going to ruin the session. We were placed on different teams and by the end my friend and I had both scored so we were hooked! The guys were great with us, really encouraged us and told us to book on for the following week.”
Word got around and after a few months they had enough new recruits to form a ladies’ walking football team. After entering their first tournament at Blackpool last May, the team worked their way into the semi-finals and eventually went on to win a tightly fought battle – their first cup! Since then, they’ve entered various tournaments, winning all of them, and ended up being voted the WFA Ladies’ Team of the Year in 2022. An amazing achievement for their first year!
But Elaine wasn’t finished yet. “In February this year I saw a Facebook post asking for ladies to trial for the IWFF England team in my age group, so I contacted the Manager and after giving her more details about my playing ‘career’ I was invited down for a trial and amazingly I got in!!! I couldn’t believe it. How on earth do you get to play for your country at my age!! Unbelievable!
My first match was a friendly against Wales which we won and then disaster struck, I broke my left ankle (I’m right footed) playing tennis at the end of April so was desperate to be fit for the European Championships in Marseille at the beginning of June. Not the best preparation, but after sitting with my foot up for 5-6 weeks my ankle felt alright, so I decided to risk it and played.
It was a fantastic weekend of football as we were there with our Ladies Over 40s and Over 50s teams and all our men’s teams so everyone was cheering each other on. The atmosphere was fantastic, and all the other countries were so friendly. There were teams there from France, Italy, Norway, Sweden, Wales and Lithuania. We played Wales in the final and won 2-0, amazing, most of our teams did well, but the Ladies Over 40s and Men’s Over 60s also won.”
To top it all off, Elaine has just received her England cap as it was presented to her in this weekend’s friendly against Wales. And we couldn’t be prouder.
If you’ve ever played football Elaine has these words of encouragement: “If you think your playing days are over, think again! Walking football is a fantastic sport and is so much better to play than it might first appear. Give it a go, there are new teams appearing all the time as it’s one of the fastest growing sports in the country. Although it can be played competitively, like I do, it was originally set up to promote fitness, mobility and to combat loneliness in older people so it really is a sport for anyone who fancies kicking a ball about.”