Parksville Qualicum Beach senior citizens are getting a kick out of walking soccer.
It has become a popular local activity, played year-round by men and women aged 55 and over.
During the summer it’s played outdoors at the Parksville Community Park, then during the cold winter months, participants move indoors to the warmer confines of Arbutus Meadows in Nanoose Bay.
The man responsible for introducing walking soccer in Parksville is Rob Jonas, the president of Parksville Golden Oldies Sports Association. He started Vanisle Walking Soccer in March 2016, as an affiliate of PGOSA. It was the first walking soccer league in Canada.
“It’s great exercise and sport as it is no contact and no running,” said Jonas. “It’s fellowship. It’s also a light aerobic workout if you’re playing for an hour-and-a-half. It’s just a wonderful sport.”
Jonas said the modified game is a perfect coed activity.
“We have little ladies who are 75 years old,” he explained. “If they get the ball, sometimes they just wail away and they kick it up the field and they have a riot.”
Walking soccer is big in England and Europe. England started with just 80 clubs in 2014 and since then has now grown to more than1,000 clubs. Last year, the International Walking Football Federation also held its first World Cup.
Jonas said walking soccer is rapidly growing in North America. He wants to continue to promote the sport and as a way to do so, he has organized Canada’s first Provincial Invitational Walking Soccer Tournament, that will take place March 7 at Arbutus Meadows.
The inaugural tournament has already drawn teams from Vancouver, Nanaimo, Qualicum Beach and Parksville.
Six teams in all will compete.
“It’s a going to be a great event,” said Jonas. “One of the reasons we’re doing this is to increase awareness and lift the profile of walking soccer so that it can be included as a demonstration sport in the B.C. Senior Games in 2021 in Victoria.”
The inaugural tournament will only field men’s teams. Jonas said down the road they will have coed, men’s and women’s teams.
It has already received some key sponsorships that included the Regional District of Nanaimo and the Coastal Community Credit Union.
The official rules of the game are: teams of 5-, 6- or 7-a-side; no running with or without the ball; no slide tackles and minimal physical contact; and ball must be played below head height. Jonas said officiating will be conducted by certified referees.
The general public is invited to come watch the tournament which runs approximately 10:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. on March 7 at Arbutus Meadows.
Anyone wishing to try out walking soccer can contact Jonas either by email at rjonas13@hotmailcom or visit the PGOSA website for more information at https://www.pgosa.org/index.php/main-calendar/event/1323-walking-soccer-indoors