When I first polled up for walking football last October, I will cheerfully admit that I couldn’t get the hang of it. I hadn’t played football for a year and, like many of the people playing on the Abbey ‘all weather’, I’d probably assumed I would never play again. There were ladies playing, a gentleman in his eighties and one or two less athletic than me but it really didn’t matter.
Over the months I’ve noticed how each player new to the group is welcomed, encouraged and given the ball, whatever their ability. Obviously, when you are established, the banter over tea and biscuits in the Abbey Arms can be fierce, particularly if you are a goalkeeper, or a coach, or on a sugar-free diet or if you are a former teacher.
Another thing I’ve noticed over the months is how much better everyone has got, particularly when playing indoors where the ball rarely goes out of play. We began to look at the idea of playing friendlies and when the FA People’s Cup was announced, I wasn’t that surprised when we registered a team for this competition.
We had no idea how we would fare in open competition, but we were content that we had a team able to compete at all. We were also very fortunate that the CEN donated Cambridge United shirts which gave us an unusually professional look.
The day dawned and as we arrived at Bottisham Sports Centre for over three hours, we learned that it was -3˚C. We didn’t want to let down our fearless coach, Phil Mullen, or official photographer, Simon Wall.
Although I had a totally ineffectual three hours or so, I really enjoyed myself and, when I woke up this morning, I felt as if I'd been trampled on by a horse! My body must be trying to tell me something. It is brilliant that the FA organises this kind of competition. As a group of over fifties who only play for fun, our first venture as a team in any kind of competition was a success. We began with three victories before losing our first game to a team of ballerinas who had spent too much time watching the Premiership. Well done to Paul Hills for putting them straight. As we tired, we drew the next and lost the final game as frostbite took its toll. The nicest and best team were from Bedford, the most amusing were from Stagecoach and our least favourite team won. They beat us with a contentious penalty. Our three wins came with the same Referee. Just saying. Finally, I believe that we acquitted ourselves well and we really appreciated the support of our friends who watched us all afternoon in the freezing cold. That's the kind of group we are.