HE might not move like Messi, but Bob Blaikie has just been named footballer of the year – at the tender age of 82.
The Loanhead octogenarian netted the award for his achievements in the fast-growing sport of walking football, an OAP-friendly version of the beautiful game in which running is forbidden.
The honour came in recognition of his dedication to the 12-strong Midlothian squad, which trains every week at Bayne Memorial Hall and Ladywood leisure centre.
The team’s oldest member and a keen striker, Mr Blaikie is renowned for never missing a game since signing up in March – earning the respect of fellow players who voted for him to receive the top prize at this year’s inaugural Walking Football Awards.
Mr Blaikie said he was pleased but “surprised” at the news, especially as he’d chalked up decades between appearances on the pitch.
He said: “I saw a flyer on the door of the hall, wondered what it was all about and got dragged in.
“It’s just a bit of camaraderie, a bit of fun, and you get some exercise as well.”
Aimed at the over-55s, walking football is non-contact and anyone who runs during play is penalised with a free-kick.
Mr Blaikie said he was able to enjoy weekly sessions despite suffering from sciatica and some of his teammates still go along even after hip replacement operations.
“There’s always a bit of a laugh – the ball rolls away from you quite a lot or you miss it completely,” he said.
“But you wouldn’t believe how many people have dropped out due to injuries – players younger than me even. You’re in a small environment and often making quick turns.”
Mr Blaikie’s success has been hailed by Midlothian leisure chiefs, who started the walking football initiative to get elderly and injured players back on to the pitch.
Councillor Bob Constable, cabinet member for sport and leisure, said: “It’s great fun and has been a huge success since it started a year ago.
“Well done to everyone involved in our Ageing Well initiative, especially Bob. What a star.”