With Olympic gold medalists Pete Reed and Charlotte Dujardin in attendance at the same ceremony, it would’ve been understandable for a Walking Football side to go unnoticed as a nominee at the 2016 Gloucestershire Sport Awards.
The sport was invented in 2011 to encourage over 50’s to exercise more and to overcome social exclusion. The 800th club formed in the country last month, doubling the amount of Walking Football teams registered in November 2015.
One side who has achieved a lot in the five years since the sport formed is Gloucester-based Abbeymead Rovers.
After winning the County League division 2 title and County cup last season, Abbeymead Rovers Walking Football were rewarded with Senior Sports Team of the Year at the awards in November.
They beat the likes of Cheltenham Harriers Men’s Road Running and Cross Country team and Drybook Ladies RFC to win the category.
Rovers’ success goes beyond the County borders with player-manager Stuart Langworthy’s side experiencing a lot of joy on a national scale as well.
It has been an extraordinary period for everyone involved with the club. Most of the squad had retired from the sport, yet Walking Football has helped inspire them to take it up again.
One player who has benefitted from it is Chris Fletcher. The Rovers defender is still shocked by his side’s unexpected success.
After starting the 2016/17 campaign in fine form, the club are looking to push on and surpass their best ever season to date last year.
Stuart Langworthy believes the reason and secret behind his sides success isn’t down to technical ability, it’s their team spirit which is giving them an advantage over opponents.
“We have great banter and great fun. Every game we muck in, there are no prima donnas in our squad.
“No matter whether we win, lose or draw, we always have a great laugh on the pitch together.”
There is talk of a Walking Football World Cup happening within the next five years. Judging by the success and direction Abbeymead Rovers are heading in, it wouldn’t be surprising to see one of their players called up to the national side for the inaugural tournament.