Following a life-changing medical diagnosis in his 60s, Anthony Pollock never expected he would become fitter, mentally sharper, and happier than he had felt in years.
In January 2020, Anthony was diagnosed with early-onset dementia which sparked his journey to improve and maintain his fitness.
“My doctor’s advice to help me stave off this insidious disease was to stay positive and to find an activity that stimulated both my body and my mind,” Anthony said.
“I jumped onto the internet and began searching for sporting activities appropriate for someone my age.
“I had never heard of walking football, so I was more than a little intrigued when it appeared in the search results for over-50s sporting activities.”
Anthony said the game is a social, non-contact, small-field version of soccer where running is not allowed.
“So, that weekend, I headed out to watch my first session of social walking football, and I loved what I saw – men and women in their 50s, 60s, and beyond, playing together, laughing together and, most importantly, having fun together.
“I signed up that day,” he said.
Anthony played his first game 2 weeks later and has never looked back.
Watch Anthony’s story
“About 30 people showed up for the session and, as the new kid on the block, I was made to feel very welcomed. I was also pleasantly surprised by how many female players were in attendance. This truly is a game for everyone.”
After a brief time on the field, Anthony volunteered to step in as goalkeeper.
“So, here I am, my first ever experience of standing between the goalposts and yet I find myself feeling unusually calm and unerringly focused.
“As the first shot of the game is rifled towards my goal, I instinctively dive low to my left-hand side and watch, with some surprise, as the ball deflects off my outstretched hand and away from my goal, a feat greeted by cheers from players on both sides. As I picked myself up off the ground it occurs to me that, not only have I just made my first ever save as a goalkeeper (which felt great, by the way), but I may have also found something that I’m not rubbish at.”
Anthony had always been interested in football, but he had never felt it was the game for him before then.
Growing up in Northern Ireland, football had been a way of life for many. But, not for Anthony.
“All the boys in my neighbourhood played the game, and they did so all the time and in every conceivable place – in backyards, on streets, and at school,” he said.
“I, too, played football – or, at least, I tried to – but, very early on, discovered I was rubbish at it.”
After moving to Australia in his late teens he decided to give football another try.
“Like any new kid eagerly wanting to fit in and make friends, I decided to give touch footy a go,” he said. “Well guess what – I was rubbish at this, too.”
“I decided it was time to sideline any further sporting ambitions and, instead, I got married to a beautiful woman, we raised 2 wonderful children, I worked for a number of companies, I ran my own businesses, and spent time living overseas.
“Like everyone else, my life also included disappointments, heartaches, and illnesses which lead to the break-up of my marriage and, ultimately, found me desolate and struggling in a painful world of anxiety and social isolation.”
This all changed when Anthony found joy and companionship in the over-50s game.
“With a renewed sense of purpose and full of self-confidence, I volunteered to stay on as goalkeeper. An offer enthusiastically embraced by my teammates, in part, because the number of players who are prepared to play goalkeeper are few and far between and, also, because in my very short goalkeeping career, I have, apparently, proven myself to be a good shot-stopper.
“Since that wonderful, and life-changing day, I’ve worked diligently to become the best goalkeeper. I’m proud to say that all the effort to hone my shot-stopping skills resulted in being selected as goalkeeper for the Walking Football Brisbane 60s Representative Team which, given my sporting background, is an honour I’m still struggling to fully comprehend.
“Because of my newly discovered goalkeeping prowess – which, on occasion, I execute with impenetrable efficacy – I’ve been further honoured with the nickname ‘The Wall,’ as in Anthony ‘The Wall’ Pollock – because nothing gets through a wall.
“All accolades aside, the greatest reward, by far, since discovering and wholeheartedly embracing walking football, has been the joy of meeting so many truly wonderful people, a lot of whom I now call friends.
“To say that walking football has improved my life would be an understatement of absurd extent. I’m now physically fitter, mentally sharper, and overall happier than I’ve been in a very long time. There are, of course, still the occasional bad days, but after having endured so much darkness for such a long time it’s nice to, once again, look forward to welcoming the light of each new morning.”