fbpx

Walking Soccer Encourages Senior Players to Have Fun

Players must be 60 to 80 years old, they can’t run and there is no heading, slide tackling or tackling from behind. In short, the only goal is to go out there and have fun.  
[additional-authors]
December 8, 2022
The Israel-U.S. team

Every Friday, a group of football players meets in Canoga Park for a soccer game like no other. It’s called walking soccer. Players must be 60 to 80 years old, they can’t run and there is no heading, slide tackling or tackling from behind. In short, the only goal is to go out there and have fun.  

While his grandson is playing in little league, Joe Perez, 72, meets with his friends at Lanark Park in Canoga Park each Friday and plays soccer, just like he used to do when he was a young man.

“I didn’t know how much I missed the sport until I came back to it. I feel energetic and alive. It gets me moving again instead of sitting on the couch at home.” – Joe Perez

“It makes me feel young again,” Perez said. “I didn’t know how much I missed the sport until I came back to it. I feel energetic and alive. It gets me moving again instead of sitting on the couch at home.” 

Perez, a retiree living in Woodland Hills, joined an activity that is gaining popularity among seniors. Unlike regular soccer, walking soccer allows players to play safely without risking an injury.

Perez is playing with the Peruvian team against the Israeli team. They all wear uniforms and try very hard not to run after the ball. From time to time some of the players forget the rules and start jogging along with the ball, just to be reminded that they should slow down a bit.

The man responsible for bringing those players together is Dr. Ben Drillings, 62, an Israeli chiropractor who moved to the U.S. 40 years ago. Drillings was a professional soccer player for the Ramat Gan team in his youth. At the age of 22, he was recruited to play for a university in the U.S. LIU Post (formally C.W. Post College), where he played for three years. However, an injury made him give up his dreams of becoming a professional soccer player and concentrate on his studies. He became a chiropractor and opened his own clinic, a2z Health Massage School. 

Last year, he had noticed that he had started to gain weight and tried a few diets that didn’t help him lose it. He tried swimming, cycling, volleyball and basketball, but nothing helped; the extra pounds remained. Soccer was out of the question because it’s a tough sport where you can easily get injured, so Drillings didn’t consider it at first. 

“Then I was told that in Glendale there is a walking soccer team,” said Drillings. “[It was] a game for older players that takes all the danger out of it. I was very excited. All the adrenaline came back to me. I decided to go back to Israel and get my old teammates together again.” 

His teammates, whom he kept in touch with all those years, were excited about the idea. Many of them haven’t played in years.

After returning back home to Los Angeles, he recruited former Israeli soccer players and other friends who love the game,and formed the Israeli-U.S. team. Every Friday morning, the group meets at Lanark park in Canoga Park and practices. 

One recent Friday morning, the players were on the field playing against the Peruvian team. Altogether, there are six teams in LA representing nations including El Salvador, Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras and Armenia.

The Israeli group includes Yossi Maman from Beitar Jerusalem, Yehuda Nexon from Maccabi Jaffa, Daniel Elkayam from Hapoel Tel Aviv, Moshe Hauptman from Beitar Tel Aviv, Jumbo from Hapoel Tel Aviv, Dova from Hapoel Ashkelon, Haim Linder, a sports teacher at LAUSD and Josh Rom. Linder and Romhad never played professionally before. 

Not only are there no tackles — jumping on other players, falling to the ground on top of each other as you might see in other soccer games. You also won’t hear anyone yelling or cursing. 

“This game brought them back to life, the stamina, the fun, the friendship,” Drillings said. “These are players who haven’t played in years and suddenly they have a chance to get back on the field. It’s amazing. We are already 60 plus years old, some are close to 80, and we are careful not to get injured. We took all the good things in soccer and left everything dangerous out.”

The Walking Soccer Association announced that on the 13 and 15 of December, the first World Walking Soccer Tournament will be held in Los Angeles with the participation of the local ethnic teams, as well as the team that would be arriving from Israel. 

At the end of the game, the Israeli team scored 5-1. The players shook hands and said goodbye friendlily. “It doesn’t really matter if you win or lose,” Perez said as he packed up his gear. “The main goal is to have fun, winning is just a bonus. We’ll try again next week.”

Drillings said he’d love to see more walking soccer teams in L.A., and hopefully an American-Jewish team. 

For additional information you can reach out to Drillings at: 818-687-8100 or visit WalkingSoccerAssociation.com.

Did you enjoy this article?
You'll love our roundtable.

Editor's Picks

Latest Articles

Defining Terms in the Middle East

The reckless violence in the Middle East is deeply disturbing on all sides, but the fog of inflammatory rhetoric only obscures any path to a resolution.  A few definitions may help.

More news and opinions than at a
Shabbat dinner, right in your inbox.

More news and opinions than at a Shabbat dinner, right in your inbox.

More news and opinions than at a Shabbat dinner, right in your inbox.