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Retired taxi-driver and stroke victim John Lovegrove on the joys of walking football

Thursday 04 Jan 2018
John Lovegrove says walking football has given him a new lease of life after getting involved with the Hillingdon Stroke Association through the FA Mars Just Play programme

I had my stroke just a few months after I retired, which affected me a great deal because I was very active even into my retirement.

I was a keen golfer and played three times a week. I used to like riding a bicycle and played any ball game and other sports as well, like badminton and table tennis.

John Lovegrove
  • Age: 78
  • Lives: Ickenham
  • Occupation: Retired taxi driver
  • Plays: Walking football

I wouldn’t have wanted to go back to work or anything like that, but I was very active and one of the biggest things that affected me was that I could not get my driving licence back, I had to give that up for fear of having another stroke and I still haven’t got it back six years later.

I lost a lot of independence – I can’t really get on a bus – I used to enjoy fishing and you need a little car to get bits and pieces around with you.

I heard about the walking football through the Hillingdon Stroke Association – I used to go to one in Ealing when I first came out of hospital but this is the group which first introduced us to walking football.

It’s all a bit of fun and nothing too demanding. I’ve really enjoyed getting back and getting active with walking football.

It’s a good workout, I learned to walk and balance on my own again, but I haven’t got the movement I used to have – I can’t ride a bicycle or even get on a bicycle – things like that.

The group meet to play walking football every week in Hayes


But something like this, I can partake and really enjoy it – you have a lot of fun and a laugh and no-one takes it too seriously.

You compare yourself to the guy next door – I feel quite fortunate in a way compared to some of the other guys, even though I can’t do the things I used to do.

Walking football is one of the highlights of my week, it’s so important for me. It’s a good physical workout even though I go to exercise classes.

It’s not the same, it’s more demanding physically and I can honestly say it really helps. I’ll sleep properly tonight as well!”


John caught the walking football bug alongside members of the Hillingdon Stroke Association, who lace up their trainers and take to the sports hall at Botwell Leisure Centre in Hayes in partnership with the Mars Just Play programme.

Recovering from a stroke can be a long and winding road but the group have found playing football is the perfect way of helping victims stay active.

Walking football is a popular category in the FA People's Cup too, with entry for the 2018 competition now open


Something which originally started as a one-off social event for recovering stroke victims has now ballooned in popularity, and walking football is also a popular category in the FA People’s Cup, with teams now able to register for the 2018 competition.

It is now the highlight of the week for people who see it as both an extra boost for mental and physical rehabilitation and a place to meet friendly faces.

The sessions are part of the FA’s wider Mars Just Play initiative, which provides a location and kit for people who just want to turn up and have a game of football without committing long-term.

By FA Staff