A FORMER England international and football ‘icon’ laced up his boots for a kickabout in Littlehampton.
Alan Mullery, the ex-Brighton & Hove Albion manager and club ambassador, visited the Southfields Jubilee Centre, in Southfields Road, last Wednesday (July 16) for a special event to encourage the area’s elderly residents to keep fit.
Football star Mullery relived his playing days by taking part in a ‘walking football’ event.
The 72-year-old was joined by Littlehampton’s mayor, councillor Jill Long, representatives from Arun District Council, Sussex FA and a number of local pensioners.
Mullery, who in his glory days picked up 35 caps for his country, said he was thrilled to have joined in with the action.
“It was my first experience of walking football and I thoroughly enjoyed it,” he added. “It was great to see so many people down here taking part and fantastic to see the mayor joining in.
“This is something that men and women can take part in.
“It’s really important to have activities and programmes like this for older people.
“The physical and health benefits are obvious but I think the social side can be equally important when you are that age.”
Walking football is a slower paced, non-contact version of the traditional game designed for older people who still want to play the sport and keep active.
Games are played on small-sized pitches and players are not allowed to run or jog while the ball is in play.
The scheme was run by Albion in the Community (AITC) and Arun District Council as part of the ‘Young at Heart’ initiative – a partnership between the charity and the council’s well-being team which give those over 65 the chance to improve their health by taking part in regular exercise.
The walking football sessions are part of a number of free or low cost activities offered by the Young at Heart programme for older Arun residents.
AITC coach Jason Hughes, who ran the morning, said he hoped that this initial session would help to inspire other residents to join future events set to launch in the district later this year.
Speaking after the opening event, he said: “Alan is an idol to lots of the guys who took part in the session today, so to have him here was tremendous.
“We want to grow the initiative and get more local over-65s involved. The idea is to get regular sessions going and have teams playing against each other.”
The next AITC walking football sessions start in early September and take place in Littlehampton and Angmering.
To find out exactly when and where the next events will be taking place or for more details on the scheme email Nicky.Buckthorpe@albioninthecommunity.org.uk