England brings it home, again!

Our Parkinson’s England Walking Football team have triumphed in the Walking Football Games 2023 at Tao Payoh Stadium in Singapore, defeating all non-Parkinson’s teams from across the globe.

The North West can be particularly proud of their achievement with a strong showing of Northwesterly players and coaches. We spoke with the team’s goalie, Laurie Sephton from Liverpool, about his experience.

Laurie told us that he “…was diagnosed in 2013 aged 38 and it was only a shock for my friends and family as I had kept my tremor secret for about 6 months. I had a wife and 2 girls at the time and soon celebrated my diagnosis with a third girl a year later!! I work as an accountant, and my company have been pretty good in helping me cope with the challenges Parkinson’s has brought

NWRIG: How does it feel to be an international sports champion?

Laurie: It feels a bit surreal to be playing for England at the age of 48! My old school are putting my shirt on display in their sports centre alongside such sporting luminaries as World Cup winner Ben Kay. Not bad for someone who played third team rugby and cricket ! Even the postman asked for my autograph the other day! 

NWRIG: Tell us about the game highlights: Who scored, how many saves did you make, who got sent off for dirty play etc etc?

We played 3 games in searing heat and humidity (I thought they’d find a goalie’s top and a puddle where I was stood!) in Singapore against teams from the host nation, Indonesia and Malaysia. We won 4-0, 7-0 and 1-0 so as goalkeeper I was delighted with not conceding any goals which was largely due to the brilliance of my teammates. The last time I played abroad in September I was sin-binned for an injudicious tackle so I was glad not to fall foul of the officials this time! Garen Williams and Laurie Wilson scored most of our goals. 

NWRIG: Do you think we should be researching whether sport can improve Parkinson’s symptoms, or slow down their progression

I try and go boxing to a specialist Parkinson’s class twice a week, I’m very lucky that in Widnes where I live there’s Rock Steady boxing run by a brilliant guy called Tommy who encourages us to fight back against PD. Tommy has PD himself and the classes have grown from a handful of us to loads of us 6 times a week. Tommy is now an affiliated trainer so he teaches other coaches from around the globe. Staying active and social is so important in arresting the onset of PD symptoms. When I first went in 2019 I was unfit and withdrawn from society. Tommy gave me the kick up the backside i needed. Exercise is vital in stopping progression in my experience.

Side note: Please see here for some info about research on exercise to slow Parkinson’s progression: https://northwestparkinsons.org/2023/04/06/exercise-for-parkinsons/

NWRIG: My two girls play football. They were lit up watching the Lionesses play, and win, their first Euro 2022 game at Old Trafford. Your team’s win could have the same impact for other people with Parkinson’s interested in the game. For them, tell us how you got involved in walking football, and how can the Northwest Research Interest Group members get involved too.

After the boxing got started, I was shown a tweet about walking football for people with Parkinson’s. In the summer of 2021 I went to the first session and loved it and just a matter of weeks later I played in the sports Parkinson’s national cup and we won!! Thanks to some key contributions from people from my club Northern Lights and others the game has exploded and the last national cup in March had 18 teams ! Also last summer I was invited to play in England trials and was delighted to be selected as part of the squad. Part of our role is to encourage participation and new hubs are opening all the time.  There are regular sessions in Liverpool Stockport and Blackburn in the north west.

Here’s a video showing the Cure Parkinson’s Cup 2023, organised by Sport Parkinson’s and the Walking Football Association

NWRIG: One last question, can we show the group the video of you doing a face plant on your way down to collect the trophy? Even international sports champions are prone to a wobble

Laurie: Feel free to show the face planting. I would have done that before Parkinson’s anyway! 

NWRIG: In that case…

Thanks Laurie, we wish you all the best for the next tournament! Every one “SWEET CAROLINE, DA DA DAAAAAAA”

See below for some links, including how you can get involved in walking football

Northern lights: https://www.nlpd2019.com/

Rock steady boxing: https://rocksteadyboxingwidnes.co.uk/about-us/

To find out more about the team and how you can get involved, have a read of this news article from the Liverpool FA: https://www.liverpoolfa.com/news/2023/mar/31/parkinsons-england-team-triumph-in-singapore

To read more about how people with Parkinson’s and researchers in the NWRIG are co-designing research on exercise for managing the complications of Parkinson’s, please head here:https://northwestparkinsons.org/2023/04/06/exercise-for-parkinsons/

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