Walking footballers want to go the social distance

MEMBERS of Denton’s walking football group were just waiting for the day social distancing is reduced to one metre.

For that meant they may be able to get something resembling a game going.Guidelines over the Covid-19 pandemic, both in terms of shielding and people remaining two metres apart meant sessions came to a sudden halt.

While the Premier League and Championship have managed to get going again, testing costs and other measures needed to be introduced have made it impossible for members of Denton Walking Football and Tameside Striders to do what they love.

However, there is light at the end of the tunnel, meaning training may resume and Alan Richards believes reducing the social distancing rule could even see matches resume.

He said: “We’re looking to restart very cautiously as and when guidelines from the FA and the Government allow us to congregate in groups of 10 or more, socially distanced of course and in the open air.

“That means we may have to limit numbers to fit the guidelines.

“Obviously players of our age are more at risk if we contract Covid-19, hence the extra caution. We will be fully risk assessing what we do.“Tuesday and Thursday sessions may restart with simple training sessions. Re-engaging with the ball and each other with a series of drills and just kicking the ball to each other as a first step.

“With any form of social distance, be it one metre or two, this will obviously mean conventional walking football is not possible, especially fully competitive games.

“But if the distance is reduced to one metre, then with common sense and restraint we can get a meaningful passing game going between ourselves limited to five a side to start with.”

Denton may be taking a calm approach but the temptation for others to get back on the pitch is proving almost too much.

As a result, that has seen other groups make plans but Alan insists they will not jump the gun.
He added: “The national picture varies with some groups keener, even desperate, to get back than others.

“But ‘desperation’ clouds judgement and we will not be rushed. We are keen to resume but things will not be the same as they were for a long, long time.

“That said I’m confident that with sensible attitudes from all of our players, and common sense guidance from our committee we will be able to enjoy the twice weekly sessions again one day soon.

“We will be employing certain protocols in common with FA guidelines as they emerge.”

While lockdown prevented Denton Walking Football members from getting together at sessions, they have found other ways of keeping in touch.

And their competitive spirit has been satisfied.

Alan explained: “After more than 80 days of shutdown many – but not all – of us keep in touch via social media.

“We have WhatsApp quizzes and the new website attracts 400 visits per week even though we are not playing at the moment.

“Committee members have rung almost every player now enquiring about their welfare and how they are looking at returning one day.”

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