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Walking footballers show class is permanent

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Age Scotland has praised the work of the country's walking football network, which aims to get older players back in the game

Walking footballers have demonstrated that you're never too old for the beautiful game by scooping a national award.

Broadcaster Jackie Bird presented Craig Brown, former Scotland manager and a walking football ambassador, and members of Walking Football Scotland with the Jess Barrow Award for campaigning and influencing at Age Scotland’s annual conference in Glasgow this week.

The game kicked off in Scotland five years ago with the aim of inspiring men and women to stay active and healthy by rediscovering their passion for football.

It's now one of the fastest growing sports in the country, with more than 1600 people taking part at 50 clubs from the Borders to the Highlands.

Age Scotland worked with the Scottish Professional Football League (SPFL) Trust, the Scottish Association for Mental Health (SAMH) and Paths for All to develop a network of groups.

The charity, Walking Football Scotland, was officially launched last year and aims to further promote the sport and reach out to more people who are looking for a fun way to stay active.

Gary McLaughlin, chairman of Walking Football Scotland who plays with the Ayr United Football Academy, said: "The whole banter, the camaraderie of walking football, is clear and obvious.

"To win the Jess Barrow award is just tremendous, I'm gobsmacked really. To us it's about getting the message out to people to enjoy the benefits of exercise in a safe manner."

The game is open to people of any age or fitness level, with the oldest players in their 80s. Many groups especially welcome participants with disabilities, dementia and those recovering from illnesses. Rules include no slide tackles, no headers, no tackling from behind, and of course, no running.

Although it's slower than the traditional game, studies have shown that this type of activity reduces blood pressure and cholesterol levels, helps prevent heart disease and strokes, as well as improving overall fitness and wellbeing.

Age Scotland chief executive Brian Sloan said "We're delighted to recognise Walking Football Scotland with this very well-deserved award. It's wonderful to see how they have inspired hundreds of people throughout Scotland to stay active and rediscover their love of the game.”