WITH the World Cup up and running what better time to get off the sofa and have a go at walking football?

The sport is now played in 35 countries and it received a major publicity boost last month when 72-year-old Tommy Charlton, younger brother of World Cup winners Bobby and Jack, represented England in an over-60s international against Italy.

The success of the event at Brighton’s Amex Stadium has already led to plans for an England v Wales clash at an as-yet unnamed Premier League ground in August, then an eight-nation 2019 European Championship and 16-team 2020 World Cup, both to be held in England and potentially screened live on TV and online.

Although it is primarily aimed at the over-50s, former Wales international Paul Parry and ex-Newport County AFC defender Darren Jones are offering walking football sessions for all ages at their recently opened Newport Indoor Football Centre.

“It’s a sport that’s growing,” said Parry. “Over the last couple of years there’s a lot more awareness about it.

“We laugh and joke about it but it’s not just for the oldies.

“It’s exercise and it helps with mental health as well – getting people out exercising and socialising.

“And then you’ve got the rehabilitation side of things as well with people coming back from injury so it’s something that we’re looking to get off the ground here.”

Walking football has very specific rules that outlaw all running and allows either no contact or only minimal physical contact between players.

Over-head height restrictions and indirect free kicks ensure that the sport is played safely with full consideration to the participants’ age.

Teams are either five or six-a-side. As a result of these rules, games are played at a slower pace, thus reducing the risk of pain, discomfort and injury, with players briskly walking through matches.

This allows people who have loved the sport all their lives to once again safely get back to playing and also introduces the sport to people who perhaps have never considered playing before.

South Wales Argus:

“It’s just for people who struggle to run and want to take it at a slower pace but still get some exercise and still enjoy the game,” said Jones.

“It’s about getting people out of their living rooms.

“It’s perfect for the older generation and for people who aren’t able to chase young kids round the pitch, like myself!

“It is quite difficult because naturally everyone wants to run to the ball but it’s just about enjoying yourself and exercising.

“We’re hoping it’s going to take off because we think a lot of people should be exercising more.”

The centre is located on Usk Way. For more information search for Newport Indoor Football Centre on Facebook.

Video by Josh Thomas