Footballers from across the Borders and neighbouring regions came together for the inaugural Borders Walking Football Festival at Gala Fairydean Rovers recently.
Teams from Peebles, Kelso, Galashiels and Newcastleton met fellow players from Midlothian and Annan (who had two teams entered) in what turned out to be a highly competitive and well-fought event.
Seven teams competed across the Netherdale 3G Arena in a round-robin tournament on a sunny day, despite the early flurries of snow.
Players took part in six 12-minute games to determine the two teams with the most points who would go through to the final to compete for the winning cup.
Midlothian finished top of the league, successfully winning all their games and going straight through to the final. The runner-up position was tied between Gala Fairydean Rovers and Annan 1 but, after some careful checking of the goal difference, the home side was announced as the second team going through to the final.
The game finished 0-0, resulting in a nail-biting penalty shootout between the two teams.
Eventually, Gala Fairydean took the title 3-1 on penalties. Players then gathered to watch the presentation before heading into the club for refreshments and a chance to reflect on a thoroughly enjoyable afternoon.
John Hislop, captain of the winning Gala Fairydean team, said: “Thank you to Gala Fairydean Rovers and the council for organising and hosting the tournament. The referees also deserve a mention.
“It was a fantastic day, and everyone who took part seemed to enjoy it, which is the main thing.
“Commiserations to Midlothian, who qualified for the final by winning all their games then lost out to us in a penalty shoot-out, and Annan Athletic, who missed out in a place in the final on goal difference.
“What made the day extra special for me was the fact the games were all played in good spirit and everyone shook hands at the end of each match. It was good to see so many spectators present and I hope this is the first of many such events in the Borders.”
Graeme McIver, Gala Fairydean Rovers’ club secretary, added: “Gala Fairydean Rovers is delighted to have worked with the council’s community capacity building team in hosting the inaugural Scottish Borders Walking Football Festival.
“We hope it will be the first of many such tournaments in the Borders and we plan to make it an annual event here at Netherdale.
“While there may not have been any running, there was certainly plenty of skill, energy and endeavour on show. Walking football is a fantastic way of keeping people active, fit and enjoying football and we as a club are committed to seeing the sport grow and develop in the Borders.”
Councillor Vicky Davidson, executive member for culture, sport, youth and communities at Scottish Borders Council, said: “Congratulations to everyone who took part in what was clearly a well fought and well supported competition.
“Thanks are due to many people but must go in particular to Gala Fairydean Rovers for their helpful organisation and making their great venue available.
“We hope the success of the event will encourage more people to get involved in the sport, both men and women, and that its popularity will continue to grow.”
For more information about the festival or how to get involved in a local team, contact the community capacity building team on 01835 824000 or at firstname.lastname@example.org