I have loved football all my life and I continued playing it until my late fifties at which point I started to become rather over-agitated when kicked by children, deciding that my subsequent reactions were not always beneficial for my blood pressure. I found being kicked by people of my own age so much more acceptable, but so few of them were still at it. And I don’t want you to think that I was totally averse to a bit of kicking myself, but when those you are kicking are younger than your own children, it all starts to feel a little odd. Frustration started to take hold and I considered it wise to heed the signs that it might be advisable to call it a day. We are not talking elite football here; there were no uniformed paramedics on stand-by. If I had suffered a heart attack, somebody would have had to nip round to the local Co-op on their pushbike to find out whether the community defibrillator had been nicked again. I fear that the black shroud would have been tightened around me long before the hands of the on-call doctor.
Anyway, I stopped playing and I should be able to say that I thought no more about it, but that would be simply untrue. I think about it all the time. Not going back of course. I am sixty three and even though I know that I am fit enough to do it, it is the reaction of the other players, potentially a quarter of my age, that I fear. The possibility of not being tackled, lest I should break, is not something I choose to consider. The possibility of not being substituted by the manager whilst having a mare, lest I should be terminally upset, is not something I would ponder. There is definitely no going back.
So I now need to contemplate ‘Walking Football’ and, it may be a sign of my softening brain, but there are times when it almost feels like a good idea. There are also times when I question the entire rationale of taking myself off to play a game with a bunch of old codgers who cannot run anymore. Me, an old codger who can run, sometimes for seconds at a time. Is it really appropriate? Could I play football without, at least, breaking into an amble? Would I be forced to chase the ball like Benny Hill chasing a scantily-clad nurse*? How fast is it possible to walk without breaking into a trot? Is there, perhaps, a maximum walking speed and, if so, how is it measured? It all sounds just a little too complicated to me. Maybe I need to look for some other form of low impact sport to replace those that propriety dictates I can no longer do. What about cricket with a foam ball and a rubber bat; tennis with no opponent, but with the ball on a length of string; perhaps touch rugby could be slowed down by tying boot laces together and wrapping the ball in Velcro. Maybe I should take up Crazy Golf, I’m sure the walk would do me good.
*If anybody below the age of fifty is reading this – although God knows why they would – they may need to Google Benny Hill and watch Youtube in order to understand what I am getting at. I wish it to be known that I cannot be held responsible for attitudes that were fifty years out of date before Mr Hill started employing them. Just saying…