It doesn’t matter what age you are, it’s never too late to start playing football.City in the Community (CITC) celebrated the one-year anniversary of the City Strikers program last week, hosting an all-women’s Walking Football tournament at the North Melbourne Community Centre.
Over 40 senior ladies had the opportunity to show off their skills in a modified and slower version of the beautiful game, with women from Italian, Turkish and Asian backgrounds all uniting for an exciting tournament.
Judging by the exuberance of the participants, you would have thought each team was battling it out for the FIFA Women’s World Cup.
There was some excellent finishing, heroic goal-line blocks and even a choreographed dance routine which will go down as one of the more memorable goal celebrations.
It just shows age is no barrier when it comes to the world game.
It is a view shared by Melbourne City W-League captain and Matildas star Steph Catley, who stopped by to take photos with each team and provide encouragement from the sidelines throughout the day.
“I think it’s incredible,” she said. “I wasn’t really sure what to expect but the ladies were getting into it, they have their teams and they were having a real go. It’s walking football but most of them are running. It’s a great way to bring people together to have fun and get active.”
“For such a big club like City to come down and get to know different types and groups of people is so important and is really beneficial for everyone involved. I think it’s huge.”
Supported by VicHealth, the City Strikers initiative delivers modified walking football programs to older people from culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) backgrounds, with over 78 per cent of participants born overseas.
Designed to improve fitness and health, the program encourages elderly members of the Victorian community and those with restricted mobility to be more active and use football as a vehicle to socialise.
Over 800 senior men and women participated in walking football programs spread among 15 different locations throughout Victoria, with CITC young leaders delivering over 172 sessions throughout the year
Of those, 77 per cent were previously inactive.
Walking football has not only provided participants with a renewed sense of achievement and energy, it is now the highlight of their week.
“The feedback we get [from the participants] is one of the most memorable aspects,” program manager George Halkias said.
“They talk about what it means to them, how they tell their grandchildren about it. Just the smiles on their faces and the anticipation of the program, if they miss a week they always say how much they missed the program.
“It has helped their overall well-being, their strength and mobility, but most importantly their mental health and alleviating social isolation.
“Some are pretty nervous at first, they are a bit apprehensive and not sure how it is all going to go. The participants have different physical capacities, but once they have a go it’s like everybody when you kick a ball or score a goal, it puts a smile to their face and gives them a sense of achievement.
“Many of these groups have been playing for at least six months now. They’ve got a sense of accomplishment and this is bringing to completion a year of hard work. It’s a celebration of what they’ve done."