A group of seniors with an average age of 70 have taken on the challenge of an unusual soccer World Cup. The South Korean national team, which will compete in the 2023 International Federation of Walking Football Association (FIWFA) World Nations Cup in England from Aug. 23-26, held a departure ceremony at Anyangcheon Soccer Stadium in Guro-gu, Seoul, on Sunday. The team will compete in the 60+ group competition. The tournament, which is being held for the first time, is the de facto Senior World Cup.
Walking Football is a soccer game specially designed for seniors with physical disabilities or activity limitations. It debuted in the United Kingdom in 2011, and has slowly spread domestically as an exercise to help rehabilitate seniors with conditions such as mild cognitive impairment (an intermediate stage between normal aging and dementia). It is being actively promoted as a sport to prevent dementia in countries that have entered an aging society. In Korea, there are 22 teams participating in the Gyeonggi Walking Football League. There are also many clubs.
The rules are different from soccer. Instead of running and kicking the ball, players move and handle the ball on foot with one foot on the ground. There are no tackles, shoulders, or fights between players. This is to prevent contested situations to prevent injuries. Players wear training shoes, not soccer shoes. A team consists of six players (including the goalkeeper). Passes must be made below head height and shots cannot be taken inside the goal area (6 meters).
Contact is prohibited, so the defending team cannot steal the ball when the attacking team is attacking. The attacking team can’t push or knock down a defending player either. A foul is then called, resulting in a free kick, penalty kick, etc. Three fouls will result in a blue card and a two-minute suspension. Three more fouls will result in a red card and ejection. The duration of the game is 20 minutes for each half (with a 5 minute break). The stadium is half the size of a regular soccer field.
FIWFA, the organization that organizes the World Cup of Nations, was founded in 2018 in England. It has more than 50 registered members. More than 20 countries have applied to participate in this year’s tournament. South Korea will face England, France, Japan, Canada, and Spain in Group A of the 60s. The tournament will be held at St. George’s Football Park, the training ground of the England national soccer team. The second edition of the tournament will be held in Saudi Arabia in 2025, with South Korea hoping to host the fourth edition in 2029.
The Korea Working Football Association, founded in June 2021, finalized the selection of 12 representatives from local players last month and began training on July 7. The average age of the squad is 70.9 years old. Former national team coach Kim Kang-nam (69) is at the helm, serving as both manager and player. Kim is the younger brother of former Ulsan head coach Kim Jung-nam, who served as head coach of the national soccer team at the 1986 World Cup in Mexico. During his playing days, Kim played for professional teams Yugong and Daewoo and scored six goals in 39 appearances for the South Korean national team between 1975 and 1983.스포츠토토
Won Heung-jae (75) is also a soccer player. He was the head coach of Soongsil University and assisted Park Jong-hwan as a coach at the 1983 U-20 World Cup in Mexico, where he led South Korea to a top-four finish. Yang Dae-gil, 67, secretary general of the Korea Working Football Association, a former youth national team member, will also participate as a player.
The team will depart for England on Nov. 22. “Our goal is to pass the qualifiers and reach the final tournament,” Kim said, adding, “We want to show that the seniors who are in their twilight years are still strong.”