THERE’S nothing like a World Cup tournament to stir up a passion for the Beautiful Game.

Just as the Tour de Yorkshire inspires us to get out on two wheels, and Wimbledon fortnight sees us heading for the park with tennis rackets, international football tournaments inspire would-be Ronaldos, Messis and Kanes to take to the pitch.

But the thrill of football isn’t just for younger players. Thanks to weekly walking football sessions in the district, older people can continue to enjoy the game too.

Walking Football is one of a range of football facilities at Fisical, a sports coaching centre in Baildon. Every Tuesday, from 8pm-9pm, around 12 players meet up at Fisical’s indoor pitch for a friendly game. The session is tailored to suit various levels of ability and fitness.

Walking football gives older people chance to get back into playing football, or take it up. The rules replace running with brisk walking (if a player runs there’s a free kick to the other side), and there is either no contact or only minimal contact allowed between players. Teams are five or six-a-side and games are played at a slower pace.

It allows those who used to play football to get back into it - and also introduces the sport to people who’ve never played before. Tom Charlton, brother of England legends Sir Bobby and Jack, is a keen player of walking football, in his seventies.

Walking football was introduced at Fisical two years ago, and has gone from strength to strength.

“Originally it was for anyone aged 50-plus, or younger people who were injured and could no longer play regular football,” says James Greaves, who runs Fisical with his brother, Tom. “But it really took off, and we had interest from younger people too. Now the age range is 35 to 72.

“People who’ve played football for a long time, often all their lives, don’t just want to give it up when they reach a certain age. We have a bigger ageing population now, people are living longer and want to keep active.

“With Walking Football the rules are the same, it’s just a different pace. It’s not so high impact, so there’s less risk of ankle and knee injuries. We started out with coaching sessions, but found that people just wanted to get on with a game.”

Adds James: “Walking football is getting bigger nationally. We play other teams; we recently played FC United, a semi-pro team in Manchester, and they’re heading over here for a match."

The game can also be played by people with disabilities or dementia, and is open to men and women. “Everyone is welcome,” says James, who adds that as well as helping with fitness levels in later years, the sessions are social get-togethers. “We have a bit of fun, there’s good-humoured banter and everyone gets on well. It’s a friendly group, they’re a fantastic bunch of guys. Anyone can come along - there's no need to book, just turn up.”

John Bott has been a keen footballer most of his life. Thanks to walking football, he’s able to continue playing, at the age of 71.

“I played until I was 45, for Eccleshill United and other local teams. I played cricket too,” says John. “I had a heart attack in 2002 and thought I’d never be able to play sport again. These football sessions have helped me get back out there and build up fitness levels. It’s better than sitting in - you have to keep active.”

Andy Preston was 57 when he took up Walking Football. “I’m 59 now and feel much fitter for coming here every week. I’m diabetic and I’ve noticed a big difference. I’ve lost two stone since coming here,” he says. “I used to watch my brother play football and always wanted to play. This is great opportunity to take it up, or get back into it. I get a lot of fulfilment out of it. There’s a good social element too.”

Stuart Carr, 62, initially played football until he was 37. “I played for Baildon Rovers on a Saturday and with three or four pub teams on Sundays,” he says. “I’d heard about Walking Football and got in touch about 12 months ago. I wanted to keep playing; it’s been great to get back into it. I love the buzz of the game and it keeps me fit.

“There’s good banter with the lads, we’ve made friendships.”

Stuart introduced pal Kenneth Bottomley, 67, to Walking Football. “I’ve been coming along since Christmas, I really enjoy it,” says Kenneth. “I played when I was younger, at school then in Saturday and Sunday leagues - I used to play for Wibsey Whackers - so I’ve really enjoyed taking it up again. It’s a friendly group, but we take the football seriously.”

Rob Hall, 51, says as well as helping with physical fitness, the football sessions help with mental agility. “There’s quick thinking and decisions to be made during a game, you have to be alert,” he says.

Rob’s grandson Charlie Jones, aged nine, comes along to watch him play. “I play football here too. It’s good that different ages can play,” says Charlie.

Nigel Rhodes, 53, has been involved with football much of his life. “I used to coach Shipley Juniors, I coached for 12 years. It’s great to still be able to play - it’s fun, it gets you out of the house and it keeps you moving,” he says. “It’s sociable too; we have a laugh and go for curries now and then.”

Alan Webster is the resident goalkeeper. “I’ve been coming here about a year,” he says. “I’ve lost a stone in weight and it’s had a big impact on reducing my stress levels. I had a very stressful job. Football works wonders for mental agility.”

Watching the lads play a six-aside game, it's clear how much they still love to play football. Their skill, focus and agility shines through.

Fisical offers football coaching and facilities for all ages, for mums and toddler groups, children, adults and older people. “It’s for everyone - beginners upwards,” says James. “We also help children with disabilities to play, at Nell Bank and Chellow Heights.”

James and Tom, who played for Bradford Park Avenue, launched the company in schools 10 years ago and it’s now based at Tong Park Industrial Estate, Otley Road, Baildon. Walking football is on Tuesdays, 8pm-9pm. There are also football development sessions for girls of all ages, and children's sessions - under-fours, fives, sixes, sevens and eights.

Tots' sessions in multi-sports, football and rugby introduce pre-school youngsters to a variety of activities; developing things like balance, hand-eye co-ordination and team work.

* Call (01274) 592328 or visit