It’s World Cup time! Never mind the next generation being inspired to kick a ball about after watching the world’s best footballers, there’s still hope for the national side thanks to a septuagenarian playing for England.
Father John Shannon aged 101 and his 75-year-old son John Junior. Credit: Wales Veterans Football

75-year-old John Shannon is still playing football for his nation as an England international player and is cheered on at every match by his 101-year-old football-loving dad.

While many people his age are fearful of being injured by a fall at home, John Shannon is not afraid to run about a muddy field in all weathers to play for England’s over 65s – with a recent match played against Wales.

Tale of two John Shannons

John Shannon made his debut playing for England three years ago. When competing in England’s over 65s’ matches, he finds he can play anywhere on the pitch.“It keeps me fit and it’s fun”, John Shannon told the BBC.

His 101-year-old dad – also called John Shannon – braves all weathers to get out to watch his son play for England, as well as club football every week – which is often against players at least half his age.

John Senior said: ”I support him when I can. Certainly, for international matches.”As well as playing for England, John Junior said: “These days, I still play eleven-a-side in one of the local teams and also play three or four times a week in one of the various small-sided games of which there are many around Cambridge.”

But when playing against footballers decades younger than him (35 years and over), John Junior admits it is not really a level playing field for older people, himself included. He says it is one of the reasons he is pressing for veteran categories for people aged over 35.

‘If you get someone quicker, you’re dead’

Referring to a big advantage of being older on the pitch, he said: “But to some extent we can play because we read the game better than some of the younger players, and we get into places that can be effective.”

But he warns: “If you get someone who’s really quicker, you’re dead”. Thankfully for John Junior the pace of the beautiful game has not led to any fatal results for someone who is perhap’s the world’s oldest football player.

Although his son may be all over the pitch, his dad denies his elderly offspring is ‘over the hill’.

John Senior said: “He’s slim, he’s fit. He doesn’t look like a slow man on the field, in fact he’s one of the quickest.

“It’s a great feeling. I would urge all those people who are having second thoughts about giving up – don’t give up. Keep playing.”


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