A record number of teams has registered for this year’s Walking Football tournament, hosted by Gala Fairydean Rovers at Netherdale, which kicks off at 12.30pm on Sunday, September 15.
Twelve teams from throughout the Scottish Borders, East, West and Midlothian and Lanarkshire will take part in the annual event, including previous winners Gala Fairydean Rovers, Gretna 2008 and Hawick.
Gala will field two teams – the Reds, who won the recent tournament at Kelso, and the Whites, who finished in third place that day.
The teams have been separated into two groups of six and the draw was made on Monday in the Captain’s Lounge of the West Stand at Easter Road Stadium in Edinburgh.
Former Hibernian, Arsenal, Aston Villa and Scotland legend Alex Cropley conducted the draw, while Hibs’ historian, Tom Wright, formally witnessed the proceedings along with GFRWFC chairman John Hislop and treasurer Sandy Chalmers.
Group A is composed of Tranent Juniors, Linlithgow Rose, North Lanarkshire Leisure, Tweedvale, Gala Fairydean Rovers White and Hawick.
Group B comprises North Lanarkshire Leisure B, Midlothian, Gala Fairydean Rovers Red, Gretna 2008, Kelso and Lauder.
The top two from each group will meet in the semi-finals.
Games will last for 10 minutes with no break and will be played according to the national Walking Football Scotland rules, which involve a three-touch and head height rule.
Alex Cropley said: “Good luck to everyone taking part in this event. Hopefully, the weather will be kind and I’m sure the tournament will be a great success.”
John Hislop added: “I’d like to thank Alex for taking time from his busy schedule to make the draw. The groups look evenly matched and I am looking forward to another great tournament. Entry is free and refreshments will be available so I would urge people to come along and see what walking football is all about.
“I’m sure spectators will be pleasantly surprised by the quality on show.”
Meanwhile, Gala Fairydean Rovers walking footballers returned to action last week after the summer break and emerged unbeaten during round four of the national league at Ravenscraig.
The opening fixture was against Glasgow Sport East, who took an early lead before Jim Watters equalised with a superb first-time strike from John Dodds’ low cross.
Glasgow added a second, then Gala had a ‘goal’ disallowed when Gordon Rae’s effort was controversially ruled out after a high ball by a Glasgow defender. Justice was done, however, when Rae scored from the resultant free kick.
Oriam were the next opponents and the hard-fought encounter was decided by a Watters thunderbolt from his own half, which flew into the corner of the net, leaving the goalkeeper with no chance.
Oriam had a number of chances but Gala’s goalkeeper Glenn Milne was on top form and the team held on to secure the three points.
The final match of the day was against Ayr United and both teams had chances before Howard Edge opened the scoring with a tremendous first-time shot from Dodds’ cross.
United secured a share of the points with a late equaliser and continued to attack – but special mention was reserved for Gala’s veteran defender Jim Mclaren, who marshalled the opposition striker expertly.
Injured player-coach Mike Godsman said: “I was really pleased with the effort and commitment of the team in three very close-fought encounters. Goalkeeper Glenn Milne was outstanding and, as well as some super saves, showed great ‘judgement’ on at least six occasions when the ball struck our woodwork!
“I do feel our team shape still needs a bit of work and we also still need to continue to improve our on-field communications but it was pleasing to have an undefeated round of three matches.
“The boys showed a lot of fighting spirit, especially in our match against Oriam, where we were under the cosh for much of the game but toughed out a 1-0 victory, courtesy of another Jim Watters kick-off special goal.”
John Hislop added: “The standard among the teams taking part in this competition has improved considerably since it started three years ago.
“Gala Fairydean Rovers play twice a week at Netherdale and, apart from the fitness and health benefits, it’s great fun and a fantastic way to make new friends.”