Colin Eke was fed up with playing soccer.
The 60-year-old was tired of the nagging injuries and the over-aggressiveness of “younger lads” he regularly played against.
After undergoing several operations — including Achilles and knee surgeries, plus a hip replacement — Eke decided about four years ago that it was best to stop playing the game he still loves.
“I hung my boots up,” said Eke, a native of Ipswich, England. “I was really wearing myself out.”
After a few idle years, Eke is planning to play the sport again, albeit in a fashion that’s more accommodating to his age, and his knees.
As the league director of the New APSL (Adult Premier Soccer League) in New Tampa and Dade City, Eke is forming an Over 50s Walking Soccer League that begins play on July 3. Games will be played each week on the fields of Benito Middle School, 10101 Cross Creek Blvd., in Tampa. An introductory practice session will be held on June 26.
Described as “the fastest growing sport in the United Kingdom,” walking soccer is completely non-contact.
Many of the rules are different than traditional soccer.
For instance, there’s no running or jumping, no off-sides, no throw-ins, no entering penalty areas and no slide tackling.
As opposed to 11 versus 11, each walking soccer squad can only have six players on the field at any given time.
Considering the reduced numbers, the field (50 by 25 meters) and goalposts are also smaller than conventional soccer.
The sport (walking soccer) is growing very quickly, and I thought this could be a good chance to try something locally in Tampa,” said Eke, who started organizing various New APSL soccer leagues in 2012. “It tries to avoid injuries that can be caused through muscle strain, hamstring problems, back problems, ankle twisting and all those other things that happen when you’re over the age of 50.”
To further reduce the risk of injuries, there’s a penalty box, or “sin bin” for those that get hotheaded or try to bend the rules of the game, which last an hour, consisting of two 30-minute halves.
Eke hopes the variations to the world’s most popular sport will reignite the passion of the game for older players “without having to go to work on crutches.”
The league director said men and women of all skill levels are welcome, and he fully expects to have some people sign up that haven’t played the game in decades.
“We just do it for the fun and enjoyment of it,” he said. “That’s purely what the game is all about — some people are playing in their 90s in the U.K., which is quite incredible.”
Eke hopes to have at least four teams in place by June 26, with an eventual goal of 12 teams. To reach that mark, registration will remain open throughout the nine-week season for additional teams and individual players.
“If we get one person who loves it, he or she will tell their friends — that’s how we’ve grown to now,” he said.
In addition to a little competition and exercise for middle-aged and older folks, Eke said walking soccer will also serve as a bridge to meet others.
“It’s a lot of fun for us to meet new people and introduce it to so many that haven’t played the game for a long time,” he said. “They play together and make friends; it’s a social event where everyone shows up, and has a laugh and a joke, and goes home hopefully uninjured ready to play another game.”
Individuals can register for $45. A team (nine players) can register $400.
For more information on the league, visit NewAPSL.com, or call Colin Eke at (813) 610-2278.
Published June 22, 2016