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Championship

Ben Brereton Díaz takes part in Rovers Walking Football session

18 January 2023

Blackburn Rovers star Ben Brereton Díaz was put through his paces after dropping in on a walking football session at the Club’s indoor facility as part of the EFL Week of Action.

Despite only becoming a father over the weekend, the 23-year-old dedicated some of his free time to engage with the participants, take some photos and join in with the action.

“I wasn’t the best at it, but it was good to come here and get involved!” he said. “I’ve never seen walking football before, so it’s a learning experience for me as well and it’s definitely nice to put a few smiles on people’s faces.

“At Blackburn, the players do loads of appearances. We feel it’s great to be involved with the community and we do it most weeks. It’s a family Club and it’s a credit to the Club, the Community Trust and the people who set these things up.”

The Rovers Community Trust project provides playing opportunities for men and women, as well as people with Parkinson’s and other neurological conditions.

Chris Lambert, who has lived with Parkinson’s for 11 years, is one of the founding members of the ‘Rovers Rehabilitation’ team.

“It’s been a great initiative for me,” he explained. “I’ve been coming here since September and it’s made me fitter, healthier and my mental health’s been a lot better.

“On a Monday, we usually get anywhere between 12 and 14 players and there are over 20 currently signed up. We’ve all mixed together and become a little family, which has been great.

“It’s a major part of my life – I look forward to it all weekend. I loved playing football growing up, but then I got diagnosed at 39 and thought I wouldn’t play football again. It was only when this got setup that I realised that I could live the dream again.”

Women’s participant Jo Cooney added: “I try to come every Tuesday and Thursday – it’s enabled me to get out the house, meet new people and keep fit. Some people here are in the 70s, so I could potentially have another 20 years of playing football now!

“It doesn’t matter what age or gender you are or where you come from, there’s all sorts you can do at the Football Club, so it’s really good for the community.”

Over 100 participants are signed up across the men’s, women’s and rehabilitation teams, including some members of the England Men’s Walking Football team.

Football Development Manager, Chris McGrail, said: “We have a passion for inclusivity here and we’ve been able to help people in need from all walks of life through the walking football initiative.

“There are a lot of people who were very isolated during the pandemic and these sessions have provided a lifeline for them. Some were quite nervous and shy at first, but they’re now very confident and friendships have been built where they’re now meeting outside of these sessions and supporting each other no end.

“It’s fantastic to have support from the players too. Ben’s a great guy and he recognises the community and the need to give back. The majority of the participants are Rovers fans, so to have the Club’s main star give up his time to come down for them means a lot and it was great to see the smile on his face as well as the participants.”

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