At 77-years-old, Mike Mallinson’s football career is still going strong, all thanks to the Fit Reds’ Walking Football sessions.
After finishing playing in his 30s, he took up 5-a-side, but finding a time that suited him to play was difficult because of its popularity at the time.
However, while out supporting his local team Athersley Rec, he happened to stumble across Walking Football and since then has never looked back.
The sport was founded in 2011 and has grown ever since. After attending his first session three years ago, the numbers at Reds in the Community’s sessions have grown week on week.
“I played football from the age of 7 with my local school before going on to have trials with Sheffield United. I played for a lot of local teams in South Yorkshire whilst I was studying at University as well.
“When football came to an end when I was in my 30s, I started playing 5-a-side but that got bigger, meaning you were having to turn out at 9pm on a Saturday night just to get a pitch.
“I thought that was me finished, but then I heard about this Walking Football while I was out supporting my local team, Athersley Rec, someone mentioned that they were starting Walking Football down here and I thought I’ll give that a go.’
“That was three years ago and I’m still here playing today, since discovering it I haven’t looked back,” he said.
Our sessions were established in 2015 as an offshoot to the award winning Fit Reds programme and are predominantly aimed at men aged 35 or over, and are also open to women.
Despite not being as fast-paced as the traditional game, there is still a real sense of competitiveness amongst the competitors taking part.
Time spent as the chairman of Barnsley Road Runners for 15 years was enjoyable for Mike, but football was the one thing that remained close to his heart and wanted to attend as many sessions as possible.
Because of the Fit Reds’ Walking Football sessions, he is able to keep active and play the sport he loves
“It’s the game for me because it’s what I enjoy playing most. I go training twice a week at the gym so I can be in a good shape to play.
“When I turn up here, it’s just a game of football. I’m playing on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays and as long as I can stretch out every morning and feel fine, I know I’ll have another day where I can keep on playing football, I just love it.”
The sessions have proved that age is no barrier to playing the sport, with some of those turning out on a regular basis at Oakwell in their 80s.
He also feels that there is a real spirit and camaraderie amongst his fellow players as they are all keeping active by playing the sport they love.
“When I look at some of the others here that are of a similar age and some even older, I think there’s someone that’s as mad as me! It’s just great, I’m 77 but playing this, I feel 50-years-old.
“I think we all feel like 70 is the new 50, and even those in their 50s are feeling like young men because of initiatives like this. It’s great, it’s really enjoyable and I really look forward to coming and playing each week,” he added.
Without the facilities Barnsley Football Club offer, there would be a lot of men similar to Mike that would not be able to keep active through football.
As the sport continues to grow across the country, he hopes that there will be more Walking Football sessions provided by Reds in the Community across Barnsley.
“It’s unbelievable we can use these facilities,” he added. “Barnsley Football Club do a lot for charities and the community.
“This club is the definition of a typical, charitable and community organisation and I thank them for being able to put sessions like this on.
“The more of these they can put on in more locations the better because we can grow the game even more across Barnsley and get more people involved.”
Our sessions run twice a week at the Oakwell Academy Indoor Centre.
Wednesdays: 12:00 – 13:00 – Cost £3.00
Fridays: 12:00 – 13:00 – Cost £3.00
The clubs run on a pay and play basis to make the sessions more accessible. No booking required.