We’re always looking for ways of extending our sporting careers; to keep the glory days alive.
Well, just when some of you may have thought the opportunities to do so were long gone, along comes Tony Stewart.
Tony is making a lot of former football (soccer) stars get their boots and jerseys out of mothballs through his Fox Football Fives initiative.
He’s developed two artificial football pitches on top of a lawn bowls green at the Cambridge Bowling Club in Floreat.
They are just like indoor football pitches, only outside. They are 40m x 20m in size and have nets all around them, as well as on top, so the ball is always alive.
They are perfect for games of five-on-five, with teams consisting of four players in field and a goal keeper.
Social groups, hard-nose competitors, junior groups, organised clubs, mixed teams, those no longer able to play seniors or masters and even those with disabilities, are already trialling the pitches. And so far, the feedback has been extremely positive and encouraging.
Tony already has organised competitions for some of these categories and is planning more.
But it is the walking football that is gaining the most attention and is a version of the sport that Tony is very keen to expand on.
“Walking leagues have become very popular in England,” he said.
“Even though you are walking, you are still kicking the ball and working up a sweat.
“And it’s still competitive.”
The rules are easy. If you run – that is, you don’t have one foot on the ground at any one time – you turn the ball over to the other team.
That doesn’t mean that the game is slow either. It encourages players to move the ball around quickly, rather than dribble it.
Walking football on these pitches encourages the use of skills to move the ball around, not so much leg speed.
So, if you fancy your ball control and kicking skills, here’s your chance to show them off to your kids or grandkids.
A recent trial game consisting of players aged in their mid-30s, who are still actively playing, to some in their late 60s, proved that walking football was a viable option for all ages.
Paul Grayson, 63, hasn’t had many opportunities to play the game he loves so much since having both hips and a knee replaced. But in this game, his skills, both in goals and out, were valuable.
Tony is starting a walking competition for over 50s. As soon as he has enough players for four teams, he’ll blow the whistle for the first kick-off.
While he expects former players to be inspired by the concept, he also thinks those who haven’t played football before will be lured by the format.
“With my facility, because the perimeter is boarded, if you do a bad pass, or you mis-control it, it hits a wall and you play on,” Tony said.
“When you play on a full-sized pitch, the ball is out of play for more than 30 per cent of the game.
“With my rebound format, you keep going. You only stop play for a free kick, or if a goal is scored.
“It’s perfect too for people who are a bit out of shape, but still might have some skills, or those just looking for a bit of camaraderie.”
Games consist of two halves, each going for 20 minutes.
The special FIFA certified artificial-turf surface also makes this facility very friendly on joints. The 60mm of artificial grass is laid on top of a thick layer of soft rubber.
“I have a shock pad, made from reconstituted car dashes and seats, that is made in Germany,” Tony said.
“It’s really easy on your joints compared to grass and some of other pitches around Perth where the turf is rolled out on bitumen or sand.”
With modern and well-thought-out drainage and flood lighting, games can be played all year around, during the day and at night.
As well as being perfect for introducing youngsters to the sport and getting active teams ready for a coming season, this set up is sure to get previously retired players back on to the pitch.
The chance to brag about performances, either recently displayed, or from yesteryear, is also popular among players.
Being located at the Cambridge Bowling Club, the bar and barbecue facilities are available for the football players to use.
Individual players are welcome.