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Coach Rachael Mutch introduces The Grassroots Post to the over 50s WFA Women’s Walking Football Team

Growing up, I always had a football near me – I was obsessed. I couldn’t find a girls’ team in Liverpool back in the early ‘90s, so I decided to try out for the boys’ team instead. I played with my two brothers in the same team for about two years and I think this really helped develop the physical side of my game. All of a sudden, women’s sides were popping up all over Merseyside and I decided to join Bootle Girls who were playing in a competitive Sunday league. From then on, I played for various teams until I found my home: the wonderful Liverpool Feds. They are such an amazing team. The set-up is brilliant and they have age groups from Under 8s all the way up to Open Age. I played with them until about three years ago, when I decided it was time to hang up my boots. 

Coming from an eleven-a-side background, I found the concept of Walking Football a little hard to get my head around. Until I played it, that is. It’s a workout not only for the body but the brain, too. Trying to ‘not run’ is something that is terribly difficult when a ball is rolling away from you at speed. 

I first got my taste for the game back in 2019 at the Dick Kerr Women’s Walking Football Tournament. I play in goal, so it wasn’t that different from five-a-side at first, but when I eventually managed to play outfield, I realised my brain would just not tell my feet to walk! I was having to concentrate so hard on not running that I felt lost on the pitch. Following the tournament, though, I was contacted by a WFA Walking Football coach and was asked to trial for the new WFA England Women’s Walking Football teams. I was too young to play, which made me smile; I had recently retired from eleven-a-side because I thought I was too old. 

One thing led to another, and I’m now the coach of the WFA Women’s Over 50s team. This is where I have realised what a blessing Walking Football is to those who play it. Speaking to my players recently, they told me so many things that they can credit to the game of Walking Football, from building their confidence to helping them focus and drive their ambition. 

The WFA England set-up is great. The women’s sides have only just been created, but they have already played an international against Guernsey where they ran out 2-0 winners. 

As a game, the funding is minimal and players have to pay for travel to international games, so the commitment to the team is huge. I think more funding should be made available at the grassroots level to raise the profile of the game and thus feed into the higher, more competitive leagues. 

To play the game well, you have to get into a technical frame of mind. Weight of the pass and movement off the ball becomes much more crucial in this type of game. As the sport is also minimal contact it allows the opportunity for all genders to play in mixed teams, which I believe adds another dynamic to the game. The benefits are enormous, both physically and mentally. But of all the things I have noticed, one stands out: the smiles on the players’ faces. They are so happy to have a way back in. To be able to play the sport they love, whatever their age. 

Here’s what some of the Over 50s WFA England Women’s Walking Football players had to say:

‘Walking Football has given me back the buzz in my life which had been missing since retiring from eleven-a-side football. There’s such a great team spirit and camaraderie amongst new found friends.’

Dee Reade, Birmingham Ladies Walking FC

‘It gave me a way back into football. A great bunch of ladies and management. Keeps my mind ticking. I love football.’

Lorraine Robinson, Birmingham Ladies Walking FC

“Walking Football keeps me healthy, both physically and mentally. It has opened new (dressing room) doors – I have made lots of friends from all walks of life, and being part of a team gives me a great sense of belonging. Football has a unique bond. At my age (fifty-eight) I might be in injury time, but I still dare to dream. I love playing football and I want to play for as long as I can – until the final whistle!”

Judith Darcy, Arsenal Walking Football Team

‘I’ve played football from the age of six in the street AND stopped at the age of 38. I couldn’t watch Match of the Day. Years later, my friend introduced me to Walking Football, and I could not believe I was thinking like a footballer again. Being part of football at the ripe old age of 52 is unbelievable, as is sharing the whole experience with a great group of people. The beautiful game reunites us all.’

Truley Griffin, Birmingham Ladies Walking Team

‘Walking Football provides me with fresh air, great exercise, competition and new friends. The joy of rediscovering the game you have loved but thought you wouldn’t enjoy again is magical.’

Jacqui Wheatley, Guernsey Walking Football Club

I thought my time as a player was gone. it’s easy to lose confidence as our physical abilities diminish, but Walking Football provides a new challenge that older people can take on. I’ve met loads of new people, my skill level has increased, I have areas where I can work to improve and it gives me new goals in life to achieve and score!’

Karen Dare, Shipley Supervets + Horsham Hoofers

‘Walking Football was my opportunity to play the game I have always loved. My generation was one where girls played netball and hockey, whereas football was for the boys. It’s ironic that I had to wait until I was fifty to start playing. Representing my country is the icing on the cake.’

Helen Nock, Hadleigh Strollers & Bedford Ladies

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