The AXA Hong Kong -YMCA Walking Football Fun Day 2019
Embracing a new form of sport where ‘No Running is Allowed’
Liverpool legends Bruce Grobbelaar and Patrik Berger demonstrate Walking Football in Hong Kong alongside stars of the local football scene
Football is a sport loved by men and women of all ages. Held today, the AXA Hong Kong -YMCA Walking Football Fun Day 2019, organised by Chinese YMCA of Hong Kong and fully supported by AXA Foundation, helped raise the profile of the exciting emerging sport of walking football. Designed to encourage people aged 50 and above as well as people with health issues to continue playing and enjoying football, walking football allows no running or physical contact. Several football stars and celebrities attended today’s event, including two Liverpool FC legends: Bruce Grobbelaar, a former goalkeeper, and Patrik Berger, a former midfielder. The guests are supportive to walking football and demonstrated walking football skills and played with each other in a friendly match. Games booths at the venue also allowed the public to experience first-hand the pleasure and fun of walking football.
Excited fans greet and interact with Liverpool FC Legends
In 2018, Chinese YMCA of Hong Kong and AXA Foundation began teaming up to promote walking football. This year, on top of hosting training sessions, trial days and organising walking football leagues, together we also presented the AXA Hong Kong -YMCA Walking Football Fun Day 2019, held today at the Public Forecourt at Happy Valley Racecourse. The event saw the public try out the sport of walking football for themselves, watch demonstrations and witness an awards presentation ceremony for the Hong Kong walking football leagues.
Fans were excited to see the two Liverpool FC legends Bruce Grobbelaar and Patrik Berger, and Kelena, a die-hard Liverpool fan, served as the event’s MC. Local celebrities Edwin Siu Ching Nam and retired football player Leslie George Santos competed against these football stars in a friendly match and then shared their thoughts about walking football with the public. The ever-approachable Bruce Grobbelaar and Patrik Berger took pictures, signed autographs and interacted with their fans at the event.
YMCA actively promotes walking football, hoping to bring benefits to the entire community
At the awards ceremony, Mr Philip Poon, Chairman of Social Services Committee of Chinese YMCA of Hong Kong, told the crowd, “Chinese YMCA of Hong Kong has always strived to promote community sports, and since the introduction of walking football in 2015, the number of participants has increased significantly – from just 16 people to more than 13,000 today. This growth is very encouraging, and this success can be attributed to the support provided by AXA Foundation and other parties. A cancer survivor once told me that his doctor suggested that he should do moderate exercise and that he decided to play walking football. He really enjoyed himself – the sport allowed him to play football in a safe environment and make new friends at the same time. We are also jointly conducting research with the Chinese University of Hong Kong to study the impacts of walking football on people’s physical and mental health, and we expect to publish the results in October. With growing support from many sectors of the community, we hope to bring the benefits of walking football to even more people in the future.”
AXA Foundation fully supports Hong Kong Team joining Walking Football World Cup
Etienne Bouas-Laurent, Chief Executive Officer of AXA Hong Kong & Macau, expressed his full support for the programme, saying “AXA Foundation is pleased to partner with Chinese YMCA of Hong Kong in promoting walking football. In the past year, walking football has attracted growing interest from the public and is becoming a popular new sport in Hong Kong with an encouraging attendance of 1,000 people for the Fun Day. Under the AXA Hong Kong-YMCA Walking Football Programme, over 400 people have received walking football training and most of them have become League players. We will continue to support YMCA to study the impact of walking football in improving health and to prepare the Hong Kong team to take part in the first Walking Football World Cup in the UK in 2020.”
Edwin Siu: “Walking football is safe yet exciting”
Edwin Siu Ching Nam, a self-described football enthusiast, told the crowd, “I love football, but playing football requires physical strength and players are prone to injury. This is my first time experiencing walking football, and I am surprised that a football game where no running is allowed can be equally exciting! I will consider forming a team with my friends.”
Alfred Cheung: “Walking football is my cup of tea”
Alfred Cheung Kin Ting participated in YMCA's first walking football league and his team finished in second place. He shared that, “I didn’t start playing football until I was 30 years old, and I quickly became passionate about the sport. Now, as a senior adult, walking football suits me better. I will join the league again this year, and I would love to represent Hong Kong in the first Walking Football World Cup.”