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'World's oldest footballer' hangs up his boots, aged 81
A MAN believed to be the world’s oldest footballer has finally hung up his boots – nearly 80 years after first kicking a ball in his native North-East.
The son of a pitman, Ernie Hall honed his skills in the Durham coalfield before emigrating to Australia in 1960 and on to New Zealand two years later.
He played throughout middle age and into retirement before finally blowing the final whistle on his career earlier this month, at the age of 81.
Speaking from Auckland, New Zealand, he said: “I’ve loved it.
“I’ve had a few injuries – knocks and bumps. But I’ve always seemed to be naturally fit. I love walking and I’ve never smoked.
“But my legs won’t take it any longer.”
However, although he won’t be pulling on his Onehunga Workingmen’s Club shirt anymore, he will remain involved with the Sunday league club off the field.
A right-half who later switched to full back, he said: “We were always short of left footers.
“I wasn’t a skilful player but I was always pretty fast off the mark.
“I would chase a man round and round the field if he kept the ball.”
A Sunderland FC fan, Mr Hall was born in Haswell, east Durham, and grew up in nearby Shotton Colliery.
He emigrated with his wife and three children looking for work and a better life.
“Everybody thought I was mad,” he said, recalling the move in those days meant a five-week boat journey.
Football fell by the wayside in the mid-1960s as Mr Hall first went looking for employment and then worked to keep his family.
But in 1968 he went along to an Onehunga practice match, found himself in the team and has stayed with the club ever since.
“I always had my boots in the car,” he said.
“I love getting out there on the weekend. I like the tackling, the running and the chasing. I look forward to it every week.”
A Sunderland FC fan, Mr Hall has a wife, May, three children, eight grandchildren and 17 great-grandchildren.
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