A hospital nurse in Teesside has seen her hobby turn her into a European cup winner – after she helped the England women’s walking football team win top honours.
Shirley Mealing, nurse matron at North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Foundation Trust, helped the national women’s team over 60s team win the Walking Football Federation European Cup.
Shirley, who leads the team in the general surgery ward at the University Hospital of North Tees, first started playing six years ago at her local club in Middlesbrough, Kader Walking Football Club.
Earlier this year, Shirley was offered the chance to attend trials for the national team – and, to her surprise, she was selected.
This then led to her competing for the England team at this summer’s tournament in Marseille in France, held earlier this month, where the team triumphed over Wales in the final.
Shirley said: “I have always played football from a very young age – I always thought I was okay but never to this sort of standard!
“Not that it was easy to play then. I remember my school in Billingham having separate playgrounds for the boys and girls – with the boys having high fences and football goals and the girls having nothing!
“I mainly just played football in the street as a child.
“Playing walking football and joining the club was all about having fun and enjoying it.
“I actually couldn’t believe it when I made it through the trials. The standard is really good.”
The rules of walking football are a bit different to the running game – which took some getting used to for mum-of-three Shirley, who lives in Norton with her husband Gav.
She added: “You obviously can’t run or jog with or without the ball – three offences leads to a red card. You also can’t kick about head height, so it is quite strict.
“The club are always looking more players, it is very inclusive and anyone is welcome to come along.
“It is not only a fantastic way to get exercise and feel good but it is very supportive and friendly.”