Canterbury Walking Football
It’s three o’clock on Friday afternoon. At this time, I’m getting my kit together, washing the bibs and inflating the balls … and I’m pleading my wife, to let me know in which far-flung part of a garden shed she’s hidden my goalkeeper gloves. (They are not allowed indoors because “they stink.”)
But this Friday, the gloves stay where they are. For sad, but sensible, reasons, we’re not playing walking football this evening, or for the foreseeable future. It’s a big blow. I look forward to 5 pm every Friday starting the previous Friday at 7pm!
So now I’m reflecting on what I’m missing; what walking football means to me. Whilst I enjoy many sports, football has always been my first love, be that as a player or a spectator. When my playing career ended at the age of 32, I still had the regular fix of watching the ‘beautiful game’ … or its distant cousin as practised by Brighton and Hove Albion! But I missed playing and with no veterans’ teams around in those days, I never dreamed I would play again. Then, in the summer of 2015, Sandy saw an article in the Kentish Gazette about walking football and, unbeknown to me, contacted Trevor Phillips who was running the Canterbury club at that time. I spoke to him and, on Friday, August 21, 2015 I presented myself at the KCC ground. I had been out and bought some basic goalkeepers’ gloves but had no football kit as such, just an Adidas T-shirt, swimming shorts, and tennis socks and shoes.
I had no idea what was in store, but I have four memories of that evening - the standard of football was much better than I had expected, I played reasonably well, these were a great bunch of guys and … Roger ran!
When I got home, I planned all the specialist kit I was going to buy before the following Friday. The next morning, the shopping list was in the bin …I couldn’t move a muscle. Not one! I spent the whole day on the sofa and my 65 years felt like 95. A couple of days later, when I could walk again, I fished the shopping list out of the bin and kitted myself out ready for Friday. I played again and, much to my surprise, felt OK the morning after. I was hooked. And just as important as the football I was making a whole raft of new friends.
In the four and a half years since, walking football has been a huge part of my life and is, with no exaggeration, one of the best things I have done in my life. I have thoroughly enjoyed all those Fridays, arranging tournaments and friendlies, and all that is involved in playing in these games. Travelling with a group of good friends to places such as Romford, Salisbury, Brighton, Bournemouth, the Algarve … even Margate, has been a most enjoyable experience in itself, win or lose. And our ‘Trophy Cabinet’ is not empty!
Twice we returned from the Algarve with silverware but, last October, we found that other teams had overtaken us and a long discussion between the players led ultimately to me trying to find a better pitch to play on, and one that was not in a cage. I re-visited the Sports department at the University of Kent and, to my surprise, given an unsuccessful request three years earlier, they offered us the top quality 3GX pitch every Friday for 19 weeks this summer. The cost was a problem but with a bit of negotiation, this was reduced to a level that, with a subsidy from the club’s coffers and a generous donation from Dave Thompson’s Marine Travel, we could accept. We looked set fair to start on April 17. We also asked a management/coaching team of Lance Fishlock and Dave Rayner to devise warm-up and coaching routines to precede each session.
On April 17, we had planned to invite all members of the club, be they Monday/Thursday or Friday players to experience the Uni facilities and to provide food and drink in the Pavilion Café Bar. Partners were also to be invited.
Enter coronavirus. Annoying and frustrating, of course, but our collective health is much more important than the game of football, much as we love it.
The lack of football on TV is, of course, a ballsaching disaster. I have rapidly developed an in-depth interest in tiddlywinks, chess and kabaddi but this has been deemed spurious, transparent and laughable, so I am trying very hard to avoid all conversations which might remotely hint at the words ‘DIY’ and ‘gardening’. Short of locking myself in the shed for the duration, I fear I shall be unsuccessful.
I hope you will all keep yourselves ‘in shape’, whatever shape that is (!), ready to play again, whenever that might be. I’m training with Dora, our dog, but she prefers to be in goal, and I can’t get the bloody ball past her! My shooting is obviously providing her with no real test as she gets bored after a dozen pathetic shots, looks at me with disdain and goes back indoors. I do walk with her two hours a day, though, so I’m keeping the body moving!
I am still keeping up my walking football involvement, and have entered us in tournaments in Brighton in July and Margate in August. (In the latter, 50+ and 60+ teams have been entered.) Three friendlies are being discussed for us to play at the Uni when we get there. Let us hope these can take place.
We recently took delivery of a new, burgundy kit and I was ready to order an alternative, green Canterbury City kit. I’ll hang fire on that for the time being.
Socially, we still hope to hold the get-together at our first session at the Uni, and I’m sure Dave R and I will run a quiz again later in the year. Our Christmas Party will take place in the Pavilion Café Bar at the Uni on Saturday December 12 so put the date in your diaries! It will be different!
Finally, I shall very much miss seeing you all every Friday and on other occasions. Let us hope that ‘We’ll Meet Again’ in the not-too-distant future. (Couldn’t resist that as it’s Dame Vera Lynn’s 103rd birthday today!)
Take care. my friends, and keep safe.
|Diary of a Fixtures Secretary Week 1|
|Diary of a Fixtures Secretary Week 2|
|Diary of a Fixtures Secretary Week 3|
|Diary of a Fixtures Secretary Week 5|
|Diary of a Fixtures Secretary Week 6|
|Diary of a Fixtures Secretary Week 7|
|Diary of a Fixtures Secretary Week 8|
|Dover vs Canterbury|