Walking football players

A walking football coach said he was on a mission to get more people from diverse communities involved in the sport.

The game is a slower-paced version of traditional football and helps to keep people aged over 50 active.

Age UK has introduced clubs throughout the country.

“If anyone feels lonely, isolated or wants to let off steam, then this is where they should come,” said Ash Banymandhub, from west London.

Mr Banymandhub, from Hounslow, who has coached a walking football club in Richmond for six years, said he felt “really happy seeing the joy it brings others and it’s a great way to stay active too”.

“That’s why I am trying to take this club to less affluent areas because there is a need for more Asian and black people to take part,” he added.

Walking football players

One of his players is Carl Cato, 60, from Twickenham, south-west London, who got involved in walking football after he had a severe bout of Covid.

“This helped me to regain my fitness and now it’s the highlight of my week,” he said.

“I do feel there is a lack of awareness of the sport and that puts people from diverse communities off, I’m the only black guy and there should be more.”

Fellow regular player John Demello, originally from Goa and who now lives in Ealing, west London, said he “feels like a kid again” when he plays.

“I am one of few Asians and I thought I’d feel excluded but it’s the opposite, I feel so welcomed,” the 56-year-old added.

Jules Palmer

Mr Banymandhub also wants to get more women involved in the sport.

One of his players is Jules Palmer, who had never played football before.

She said she “wasn’t too keen initially” but other members of the team “really welcomed me, helped and coached me”.

The 59-year-old from Teddington, near Hampton, said she hoped if other women saw her play it would “encourage many more to come along and try it”.

‘Inclusive community’

Age UK, together with the Football Association and Sport England, has been running walking football programmes with the goal of reaching more than 1,000 older people in communities across England.

Gavin Shand, chief executive of Age UK Richmond, said: “Being part of a strong and inclusive community is really important as you get older, as it contributes massively to living a happier and healthier later life, with less loneliness and isolation.

“Age UK Richmond has offered our walking football club to the community for a number of years now, and we are always looking for and welcoming new people to continue growing a diverse friendly group.”

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