Hi. I am Gerry Britto and I am the instigator of walking futi in Gibraltar.
I hope you will find the following of interest and I think it should not do Walking Football in Gibraltar any harm either if it gets aired.
Walking football in Gibraltar was first played at 9 in the morning on a blustery 15th January 2016.
It was a briskly cold winters day and although the temperature was in double figures the football pitches in Gibraltar are situated beside the airport in unshielded ground.
Having seen that Walking Football was taking off in other parts of the world myself and a friend got together, over a coffee, and decided to get started.
Two years later, almost to the day, it is now both frightening how ill prepared we were for the task ahead and how astonishingly well the whole thing has developed.
We approached the Victoria Stadium Authorities, who run all the national football pitches in Gibraltar, for a one off allocation at a 5 a side pitch.
And although they were very obliging they were at the same time amused and sceptical about the whole idea!
They had of course heard about Walking Football but I think they considered it to be a big joke and not something that would go on for very long.
However that one off allocation has now gone on for 2 solid years and still going strong.
So we approached a few friends and eventually got ten people to commit to coming.
On that first day we had no bibs or shirts.
Balls were provided by whoever had a football at home. Mostly 'borrowed' from our grandchildren and no definite set of rules! And of course no referee!
Since we were all friends, or at least known to each other we had suggested that they come with either a red or white shirt and hoped that it would out by the law of averages we would have an equal number of red and white players.
But our biggest problem was the rules.
Myself and my co organiser, Charles Fortunato, had had considerable discussion beforehand on the rules and how they would be applied.
However as was to be expected, there were numerous situations which cropped up which had been difficult to foresee.
We decided, maybe contrary to popular thinking in the UK, that goals could only be SCORED FROM INSIDE THE PENALTY AREA.
Actually we have maintained this rule until very recently, but have now reverted to the more conventional scoring from anywhere over the half way line.
We never saw the logic of restricting the goalkeeper inside his own area and therefore have never implemented that rule.
Another considerable difference with the game in other parts of the world is that our players are older.
Our players are mostly in the mid or late sixties with quite a few in their seventies.
Actually we have one who is 79!! Ironically he is the one that gets whistled up for running the most!
It is also unfortunate that we do not interact with any club outside Gibraltar.
So far the only contact has been recently up the Costa Del Sol with the expat community and will have to wait to see if it develops into anything.
Gibraltar is a small and unique place. I'm certain some of the problems we encounter are also unique.
The 5 a side pitch we use we have to share with school children as well as the official matches of the Gibraltar Football Association (GFA).
So we a restricted to our once a week 9am allocation. As well as limited to one pitch!
This causes problems when we get large numbers of players turning up. Although I have to say that generally we manage quite well with our one pitch and we are very grateful to the powers that be at the Stadium for this one allocation.
Recently we have been approached by the GFA to participate in an over 65's tournament in Bristol this coming May.
This will no doubt increase the profile of Walking Football in Gibraltar and maybe increase participation.
Which will in turn bring other, though welcome, problems.
As main organiser I must say that I have enjoyed myself tremendously these last two years.
Our group, now over 20 meet for lunch 2/3 times a season. And our season is literally never ending. With most of our old boys enduring the heat of July/August in order to get a game!
The future looks bright and this business of traveling to Bristol is already paying dividends with many suggestions of increasing training! More problems but of the positive type.
ARTICLE AUTHOR: Gerry Britto