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Walking soccer extending play time for fans of world’s favourite sport

Step aside pickleball; walking soccer is here to fill a gap in Victoria’s social sports scene

As referee Tony Shaw puts it, “there’s a lot more energy to it than the title.”

Out on the Hampton Park field in Victoria on a Wednesday afternoon, the Gorge Striders are engaged in a lively game of walking soccer – a sport made for people who want the joy of playing soccer but at a slower pace.

“It’s great for me: I can still enjoy the game,” said Shaw, 83. “And I like the beer afterwards. And it’s good company. The people here are just really, really nice people. I brought my son Kenyon to the games. He has down syndrome, is 40 years old, and he loves it too.”

Walking soccer is a modified, non-contact version where players must always have one foot in contact with the ground. Of course, a little bit of running happens here and there (cue Shaw’s whistle going off), but the most important thing is that everyone is on the same page about keeping things safe while having fun.

The Gorge Striders walking soccer team, February 2024. (Samantha Duerksen)

Lifelong soccer player Peter Denby, 84, spearheaded the Walking Soccer League in Victoria through Gorge Soccer Club in 2021 after someone up Island asked if they could get a team going.

“I was skeptical about doing that, but when I started doing some research and saw what was happening in the UK and around the world, I thought, yeah, this is a great idea,” Denby said.

Walking soccer was created by UK’s John Croot in 2011. It’s now the UK’s fastest-growing sport and is regularly played by 60,000 people in England alone. So it’s no surprise that it’s taking off at the Gorge Soccer Club, one of the first clubs in Canada to have a walking soccer section.

“What has come to the point now, is we almost need another organization to start it in Victoria because we’re getting too many people,” Denby said. The Gorge Striders currently run two divisions of walking soccer for different skill levels over three days a week and are looking at expanding into Oak Bay Recreation.

The co-ed group is also filling a much-needed gap in Victoria’s social soccer scene for women considering the oldest Gorge women’s team is the 35+ division.

Geraldine Byrne, 65, showed up to the second session looking to meet new people after recently moving to Victoria but was in for a surprise. The team was all men.

So, she decided to recruit. Now the team has lots of women, including Beth Cruise, 75, who regularly played soccer for 30 years and now hosts women’s clinics for group members new to soccer.

The Gorge Striders walking soccer team, February 2024. (Samantha Duerksen)

“Some of the women here have told me that they never had a chance to play organized sports,” Byrne said. “I’m just so grateful to be able to, at retirement age, come out and play. And have fun and learn something new.”

Other players, like Hector Furtavo, are taking advantage of the slower pace while recovering from an injury. Then there’s Arthur Underhill, 72, who spends 40-45 minutes driving from Cowichan to play, due to his love for the game (and his defiance towards playing pickleball).

But the benefits of walking soccer are not just heard from personal testimonies. Studies have shown that walking soccer effectively treats mild to moderate hypertension and those who play show marked improvements in fat oxidation and aerobic power. It’s also shown to have substantial mental health and social benefits.

And out on the field on a Wednesday afternoon, with whoops and laughter coming from smiling, flushed faces, it’s easy to see those benefits in real time.

The walking soccer league runs year-round, outdoors at Hampton Park. Contact Peter at to register or find more info at or

The Gorge Striders walking soccer team, February 2024. (Samantha Duerksen)

Sam Duerksen

About the Author: Sam Duerksen

Since moving to Victoria from Winnipeg in 2020, I’ve worked in communications for non-profits and arts organizations.
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