Walking football is at the very heart of what Pompey in the Community stands for. Giving those who may otherwise have less access to the sport, an opportunity to get involved again and playing football, is something many of Portsmouth’s older residents are benefiting from on a weekly basis. With the new John Jenkins Stadium build nearing completion, we spoke to Giorgio Colombi, the PitC Walking Football Club Secretary and Treasurer, who explained that the new stadium would provide the teams with a wealth of new opportunities.
Roko Health and Fitness Club was the first ever venue for Pompey in the Community’s Walking Football club, complete with a social area that gave many players an access to the social side of the sport, something which Giorgio says is hugely important.
“We’ve been waiting a long time for this. Roko when we played there, we could go into their café area so after a session we’d get 18-20 people in there and have a coffee and sit and chat. The big thing we’ve been missing is that element after a session has finished and we’re hoping at the John Jenkins we would get that element back”.
Giorgio also highlighted the new meeting areas at the John Jenkins Stadium which are crucial for board members to plan out the financial budget each season, since they work with a very tight budget.
He explained that an updated subscription model has allowed players to pay monthly, which keeps the pitches available each week. “We do a big discount if you pay monthly. You get it for £17.50 but that covers Mondays and Thursdays, 2 sessions a week. Most of our players pay monthly which guarantees us the income to meet the cost of the pitches”.
“As far as I understand there’s going to be a nice café area and meeting rooms there. When we have our AGM meetings we are outside at goals trying to go through all the budget and finance so to have that meeting area at the John Jenkins would also be a big plus for us”.
Walking football is played by a strict set of rules laid out by the Walking Football Association (WFA). One foot must be in contact with the ground at all times with the trailing leg being straightened as it comes past the standing leg designed to maintain a slower paced game.
Minimal physical contact is involved, which removes aspects such as shoulder barging, heading and shielding the ball to ensure that all players remain safe and able to participate fairly. The sport is generally designed for those 50 and up with different age categories and both men’s and women’s teams.
Walking football is a longstanding PitC project that enables those who are older or lack mobility to get involved once again with the sport they love. The club provides a regular venue as well as a kit, allowing teams to take part in regular tournaments and fixtures.
Both the women and men’s teams were recently awarded grants of almost £10,000 each from the National Lottery, allowing them to expand and attract new members to the club. However, the women’s game has seen a relatively slow uptake. Giorgio noted a lack of female players in previous generations, which has led to less interest in walking football, as those same players enter their later years.
The club is keen on reaching out to more female players with Giorgio noting “It’s a different generation now. There’s loads of girls playing football in schools right now and to a very high standard. Unfortunately for the current generation, there’s not many that played football back in the day, but we always encourage new members”.
Walking football is a sport that is gaining national popularity, with those that previously participated in the game at any level, able to play again, in a safe and enjoyable environment, even in the later stages of their life.
Giorgio and everyone at PitC Walking Football are hugely excited by the prospect of the John Jenkins Stadium, which will allow the social element of their sport to flourish once again.