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Walking Football Comes to Madeira

Last updated on 4th January 2022

A New Way Towards Health and Fitness

Created in the UK in 2011, Walking Football has enjoyed an overwhelming success, with around 1,200 clubs nationwide.  However, when ex-pat Phill Bellamy moved to Madeira in November 2020, with the idea of joining a local Walking Football (WF) team, he, along with his friends Wil de Jong and Don Amaro, found that if they wanted to play, they were going to have to introduce the sport to the island and formally set up a Walking Football Club.

Notwithstanding the pandemic, Phill, who played football at a high amateur level, Wil and Don have worked tirelessly to create their first club in Ribeira Brava, and luckily have had the support of both the local Câmara, sports centre and six local businesses who are sponsoring the team.  Walking Football, is not about playing football at a slower speed; it is about allowing people aged fifty and over the opportunity to exercise, learn how to move during the warmup, training and fitness sessions, meet other people, socialise, and have fun. Phill realised how important WF is when during the pandemic he lost two friends from his former UK team. They didn’t die from Covid but from inactivity and lack of social contact, a predicament that is facing a huge number of people especially the over 70’s.

But it’s not been plain sailing. Setting up a non-profit making organisation has many challenges, especially as here in Madeira it is a new and unrecognised sport.  This has recently changed as on Tuesday, the 7th of September the new group have been invited to attend the 14th anniversary of the Ribeira Brava sports complex.  Furthermore, they were recently invited to attend a sports presentation, as well as being asked to give a demonstration, which led to several ladies joining in, who thoroughly enjoyed themselves

One of the joys of the sport is that everyone can take part, no matter how fit they are. No one is allowed to run, although at the moment this has proved to be one of the biggest challenges, as both men and women alike are apt to break into the odd sneaky jog, which means it is a lot less stressful on the joints, and the teams, who are picked by Phill, are as equal as possible, to ensure that both sides have the opportunity to play well and enjoy themselves. Furthermore, it is a thinking game, as individuals have to strategise their game, work together and overcome any communication difficulties (Portuguese and English) as a team.

Although WF is new to Madeira, it’s not to Portugal, as Benfica have a Walking Football Foundation, as do the Azores. This creates many possibilities including a long-term plan is to create several tournaments, where players from Portugal, Azores, UK and other countries can start competing against each other in each other’s home countries.  Already, teams from the UK have contacted Phill asking when they will be up and ready so that their members can temporarily join the Madeira team when they visit the island.

This is obviously a long-term goal; the immediate goal is to create a successful club in Ribeira Brava so that it can help other’s organise clubs across the island. And one of the backers of this initiative is the Senior Citizen University who are interested in bringing the sport to their students.  If this goes ahead the sport will suddenly become accessible to hundreds of senior citizens who a) may want to unleash their inner Ronaldo and b) want to exercise and have fun at the same time. Further health benefits include: –

  • Improvement of both physical and mental health, fitness, and well-being.
  • Becoming more active in later years, doing something you never thought possible or had even thought of doing.
  • Having fun, meeting new people, and making new friends.
  • The feeling of belonging to something and having a shared interest.
  • An activity suitable for anyone and everyone, whatever their physical or mental condition.

One other interesting point to mention is that instead of grandparents sitting on the side-lines encouraging their grandchildren, youngsters will now get the opportunity to support their grandparents, who are not backward in coming forward in the competition stakes. And with Benfica having its own Foundation, which organises a Portuguese team tournament, and with the final being held at the prestigious Estádio da Luz, it would appear that the Madeiran side already has its eyes on making it to the top. 

So, if you aged 50 and over, and would like to be involved in a team sport that’s fun, Walking Football could be for you.

For further details please contact:




Samantha Gannon

info at

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