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Shahrom Sulaiman was a football reporter and writer from 2002 till 2007. He wrote for various columns and magazines such as, Football Weekly and The New Paper.

He has always been a football fanatic and has attended many live local football matches to watch LionsXII or Geylang International. The only teams that he has watched live overseas are Paris Saint Germain and Caan in Paris.

He will enthusiastically analyse soccer matches and has a dream that Walking Football can be further expanded for the ageing football enthusiasts and a proper competitive league can be formed in the years to come

A Tale of Two (Walking Football) Men
Reported by Shahrom Sulaiman

As the sun sets on another successful Walking Football training session held at Bedok North Secondary School, two gentlemen cut a spirited shadow of their vibrant selves as they proceeded to make their way to pack the training equipment.

The first gentleman, 54-year old Mr Azmi Shah Bin Shaharim, had to do the 12-stretches before helping to pack up as a means of a warm down as advised by our own head trainer, Dee Dee Mahmood. For the uninitiated, the 12-stretches has been thoroughly researched by Dee Dee as part of her research project and they have been proven to be the best way for anyone to avoid muscle pains and fatigue if done properly before and after exercises.

Dee Dee Mahmood is an adjunct Senior Lecturer and Academic Researcher from Edith Cowan University, Australia. In addition to researching about the 12-stretches, Dee Dee is also an expert in exercise physiology and nutrition, hence she is spearheading this Walking Football4Health program as part of a health community research initiative under Edith Cowan University, supported by International Sports Academy and Eunos Community Centre.

The second gentleman, Mr Masazhari Bin Yayit, otherwise known as Kecik due to the fact that he is the youngest among his seven siblings, is the coach of the Walking Football4Health team and he was busy ensuring that every single equipment was accounted for.

The journey that both men took before destiny brought the two of them to this Walking Football4Health movement could never have been more different, yet it was the love of football and leading an active lifestyle that enabled them to share a common goal. How did it all start?

Mr Azmi in action during Walking Football4Health training.

For Mr Azmi, he was a very active sportsman in his younger days. Specifically active in individual sports such as running, swimming and cycling, Mr Azmi was also part of 3rd Guardsman Battalion 7th SIB that just happened to win the top honors in the year that he was a lean, fit NSman in 1985.

Running marathons was something that he loved to do. He participated in many long distance runs and events, in fact running distances of 42 km was not an issue for him.

Unfortunately, work commitments and other factors did not allow him the luxury of setting aside time to do the sports that he used to love. A 4-day work week and another 2-days overtime, and working hours that starts from 1 am and ends till 10 am the next morning may not be the most ideal situation for a man who works a desk-bound job at Port of Singapore Authority.

Nevertheless, Mr Azmi still yearns to try and be in his best physical shape but he put it off for a variety of reasons; being tired after work was definitely one of the main reasons. Not until this year though. He received an invitation from his close secondary school friend, Mr Azni, who cajoled him to try out Walking Football, an initiative kickstarted by Dee Dee.

“I was hesitant to start exercising because it was quite a while before I was very active. I still do a bit of cycling and walking as and when I wanted to but I had no confidence in doing much more active exercises, “Mr Azmi spoke during an interview.

 “I heard of Dee Dee’s name before and I had more confidence in joining the program because I know she can guide us in many areas, “Mr Azmi opined.

Mr Azmi does not suffer from any major ailments such as cholesterol and diabetes, the only supplements that he take is to supply his body with a healthy dose of vitamins and minerals, but he realizes the importance of keeping fit with an active lifestyle.

Playing in a big group was one of the main motivating factors for Mr Azmi to participate, yet one can sense that his competitive spirit was still alive and kicking as he sets himself an ambitious target of trying to achieve his fit body that he had a few decades back.

Dee Dee reassured Mr Azmi that we have body memory and with the right fitness techniques and nutrition, he has a good chance of trying to reclaim back a percentage of the type of body that he used to have.

Walking Football is perhaps the most ideal activity for Mr Azmi to participate in and try to achieve his ambition.

In a research paper published by Dee Dee under Edith Cowan University and in collaboration with Montana State University, Walking Football has great impact on a person’s physical health.

Despite being an outwardly simplistic form of exercise, the results of the scientific research support the idea that competitive Walking Football is of sufficient intensity to promote positive changes in both cardiovascular and metabolic fitness. 

Mr Azmi was happy to hear this piece of news. He knows that he has to go the extra mile in order to achieve his dream, but in the meantime, he is just very happy to be as active as he was before, with a few other gentlemen that he happens to kick a ball and cracks jokes with every Sunday evening.

Azmi (standing, second from right) & Masazhari a.k.a. Kecik (seated, right)

One of those other gentlemen is none other that the team’s coach, Kecik. 2006 proved to be the year in which he had a very big scare after he could not move his body easily after waking up one morning. Kecik has always been an active sportsman but after 6 months of inactivity due to his busy work schedule, Kecik found himself in a difficult spot after he could not move easily on his bed.

“The doctor told me that I had slipped disc and an operation could be 50-50, “Kecik recounted. “However, he told me that since I was still quite young, I can start to exercise regularly and try to cut down on my smoking, “ Kecik added.

Dee Dee and Kecik crossed paths much earlier due to the fact that she scouted for football players to play in a team called D’Stallion XI as part of a research program under the Singapore Heart Foundation in 2008. Thanks to her guidance and advice, Kecik admits that the process of him recovering much sooner was eased tremendously.

Kecik in d'Stallions XI (seated right)

Charity Exhibition match 2009 for Singapore Heart Foundation against Celebrity All Stars and ex Malaysia Cup players. The lineup included Abbas Saad, Lim Tong Hai, Baihakki Khaizan and many other popular names. Kecik was part of the D’Stallion XI that played against the All Stars.

2008 happened to be the year in which Kecik stopped his 40-cigarettes-a day ritual, a ritual which he happened to try and quit after two unsuccessful attempts. Once again, thanks to his steely determination and listening to the advice of both his doctor and Dee Dee, Kecik has never lit up since then and he admitted that it was the longest that he had tried to quit the habit.

The learning point for Kecik after he suffered from the slipped disc was the fact that being active is one of the best preventors of any major injuries. The development of muscles could support his body weight, whereas those 6 months in which he did not work out intensively resulted in muscle loss, hence his body could not support his weight and as a result his spine had some issues.

Nowadays, being fit and active is his mantra and Kecik takes part in many marathons and runs, such as the Reebok 20 km challenge. Hitting the gym and playing the occasional competitive football game has also been occupying his schedule, hence why he looks very fit for a man who is 45 years old.

Kecik in action against Malaysian football legend, Dato ‘Soh Chin Aun in an exhibition match at FAM on 12 May 2018

His personal dream, nevertheless, is to ensure the growth of the sport of Walking Football through the movement spearheaded by Dee Dee. Currently completing his 1-year Sports Science Diploma at the Institute of Sports Academy, Kecik has set his sights on trying to complete a 2-year Football Degree Program.

He would like to see the sport grow as big as the movement in the UK, where it is not strange to see middle-aged and senior men from all walks of life come together to competitively play the sport of Walking Football once a week.

For now, Kecik and Mr Azmi are considered as trailblazers in a sport that is relatively quite new to the scene, even though football has always been Singapore’s favorite pastime. This is the tale of how the 2 gentlemen came to join and play Walking Football, and hopefully we can hear many more tales from many other men who wish to come forward and try out this new sport and initiative in the very near future.

Walking Football4Health

Shahrom Sulaiman was a football reporter and writer from 2002 till 2007. He wrote for various columns and magazines such as, Football Weekly and The New Paper.
He has always been a football fanatic and has attended many live local football matches to watch LionsXII or Geylang International. The only teams that he has watched live overseas are Paris Saint Germain and Caan in Paris.
He will enthusiastically analyse soccer matches and has a dream that Walking Football can be further expanded for the ageing football enthusiasts and a proper competitive league can be formed in the years to come.

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