After more than 100 virtual sessions across the past year, Chelsea Foundation Walking Football participants are back enjoying face-to-face sessions.
During the global pandemic, participants have joined up virtually for practical sessions as well as weekly catch-ups with special visits from Chelsea players past and present, including Chelsea Women’s star Fran Kirby and former Blues Gary Chivers and Claire Rafferty.
After a successful four-week pilot, face-to-face walking football sessions are back up and running and the Foundation also recently hosted our first post-lockdown fixture.
Spirits were high among the group as the Blues come away with a 1-0 victory against Cheddar Walking Football team.
Ellie Lock, Chelsea Foundation Health and Wellbeing officer said: ‘It has been a long journey for our participants waiting to get back to doing what they love and seeing their friends.
‘Taking part in virtual sessions throughout the past year has definitely kept everyone going but that feeling of seeing your friends in person again has been a huge high for the group.
‘I’m so pleased we are back delivering and hopefully can continue to grow the number of participants attending. We also managed to have our first walking football match this week since the pandemic, giving one participant their debut playing for Chelsea Walking Football team!’
For so many of our participants, the virtual sessions have been a lifeline and even though the group have been unable to join up in person during the last 12 months, the sessions have enabled participants to stay connected throughout these unprecedented times which has proved to be invaluable for walking footballers Russell and Gail.
Walking football participant Russell Miller said: ‘Having struggled with mental health I, like many men, tend not to talk about our problems, but joining walking football has allowed me make new friends that I can talk and share issues with, both on and off the pitch.
‘The quality of the football, the banter, the exercise and the fun gives me something to look forward to every week.’
Gail Petipher, who is also part of the Chelsea Foundation Walking Football team, added: ‘Returning to walking football has given me that spring in my step again, it has bought that smile back onto my face.
‘It’s something I’ve missed so much but coming back and being with people who accept you, laugh with you and share your love of this wonderful game whoever you are and whatever your ability is just beautiful, it’s like we’ve never been away.’
For more information on our Walking Football sessions or to sign up, click here