Best strolling back the years
Clyde Best and Leroy Wilson have teamed up to introduce walking football to the island and are among those strolling back the years at Bermuda College twice a week.
Best, the former West Ham United forward, and Wilson, a former Dandy Town and Wolves coach, are hoping the sedate form of football will “get the elderly out of the house” and help improve their physical and mental health.
The pair have watched with interest while the sport has boomed in Britain, with an estimated 40,000 people taking part in games every week, and believe it can also be successful, on a much smaller scale, in Bermuda.
“Clyde and I have been talking about walking football for a few years,” said Wilson, a former local referee.
“It’s become very big in the UK and I thought, ‘Let’s try it in Bermuda, so we get older people out of the house for a bit’.
“I watched some of it online and thought, ‘We’ve got some players in Bermuda who can do that stuff.
“‘Why don’t we put it together and see what happens’. It offers a little bit of exercise for older people.”
Wilson, 63, held weekly sessions during a three-week trial in November and December for members of the Lifelong Learning Centre and said he was encouraged by the feedback he received. So passionate is Wilson about the sport, not only has he reprised those sessions from 3pm to 4pm on Fridays, he is also coaching from 10 to 11 on Saturdays for anyone over the age of 55.
“My goal is to put something back into the game,” Wilson added. “I love to coach, but I’d never coached walking football before. I’m going to have to put a bit of work into it as well.”
Wilson has not ruled out the possibility of Bermuda starting a walking football league and has ambitions of assembling a team to compete in overseas tournaments in the future.
“My plan is for us to be able to compete in a UK tournament in two years time,” he added. “They are even playing international matches now.
“I think it will be a really good thing for the country. You can have grandpas, grandmas, great-grandpas and great-grandmas playing together. It can bring the whole family together.
“We need players who know the basics, how to pass and control the ball. I’ll just need to coach them to be in the right areas of the pitch.”
Best considers walking football to be far more than just a game and believes it can have considerable benefits for those who take part.
“It’s not so much about the football than it is about getting some exercise,” said the 68-year-old. “The more people who come down the better and hopefully we can get men as well as women. It can benefit a lot of people.”
Although his legs might not be what they once were, Best insists he still has plenty of the old magic at his feet and said several of his former team-mates such Larry Hunt and Dennis Wainwright had expressed an interest in playing.
“I’m not looking to be the best player or set the world on fire; it’s about getting a nice, brisk walk and having some fun while doing it,” he said.
“The good thing about it is that you don’t have to run. The skill doesn’t leave you; it’s the fitness that leaves you.
“It’s something we actually used to do with our old national team coach Graham Adams at BAA. It makes you think because you can’t run.
“Hopefully we’ll get all sorts of people down there ... doctors, lawyers, maybe some politicians. It will be nice if both parties could put a team in!”
Sylvia Shorto, executive director of the Bermuda College Lifelong Learning Centre, said Wilson’s enthusiasm for the six-a-side sport was infectious and is confident that interest in his coaching sessions will grow.
“Leroy came to us about the idea and we thought it would be something really interesting for our members,” she said. “We thought it was a great idea and something new to our members and new to Bermuda.
“We had a three-week trial last year and had half a dozen people show up and they loved it.
“We used a slogan saying, ‘You’ll never walk alone’, but as Clyde Best pointed out that’s Liverpool’s motto, so we changed it to ‘Walk, don’t run’.”
For more details call Wilson on 595-8048.
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