Dickie Borthwick is a famous soccer (or “football”) player in England, but not for the reason you’d expect. He’s not one of the best players in the world, and he doesn’t make millions of pounds a month challenging for the Champions League (the biggest club tournament in Europe). No, Dickie Borthwick has become an icon among soccer fans, because he is the oldest soccer player in soccer-mad England. Yes, Mr. Borthwick is a competitive soccer player, even at the age of 83.
Dickie Borthwick is a retired engineer who began playing soccer two years after the end of World War II, when he was 12 years old. He first played for Invergordon Academy and later played for Ross County and Invergordon Town FC in Scotland before moving South to Dorset in England. There, he played for 11 non-league clubs including Sherborne Town.
With a career that has spanned about 72 years, Dickie has played around 1,600 games, and scored over 400 goals, primarily as a left winger. One stat you won’t see in his impressive resume is red cards. Borthwick proudly maintains that he’s never been sent off in his entire career. Throughout his older playing years, Borthwick played in veterans leagues, often against athletes decades younger than him. (Veterans leagues usually are for 30- to 40-year-olds). Despite his age, Dickie has never wanted to be treated any differently.
When I go on the pitch, I always say to the opposition, ‘I’m getting on a bit, but treat me as a normal player. Tackle me hard, I don’t mind, because I’ll be doing it to you.’ I don’t want to be treated as an old person. And one or two do come in hard, and sometimes they’ve come off worse. One of my nicknames is The Tank. I’ve never been a dirty player, mind you. — Dickie Borthwick
In 2013, Borthwick had to take some time away from the game when he was diagnosed with prostate cancer. That didn’t keep Dixie, as he’s called by friends, from his beloved soccer, though. Once he beat cancer, he quickly returned to the game and continues to play to this day, even if it’s only in his backyard.
How Has He Kept So Fit?
Borthwick credits his longevity to living by the five D’s: discipline, desire, dedication, determination, and drive. Each morning, Dickie walks to the window, takes 10 deep breaths of fresh air and does the same at night before bed. He also maintains a strict diet, watching his snacking and what he eats closely. Additionally, he enjoys a nice cup of tea regularly, eats a bowl of porridge before games for energy, and takes vitamins each day.
Perhaps one of the biggest changes Borthwick made to improve his health was quitting smoking. For someone who wants to keep up with people 40 to 50 years younger, smoking can undo many of the benefits you get from exercising and taking care of your health.
Dickie also enjoys other healthy activities outside of soccer, like playing music. Borthwick will often entertain at pubs after soccer games by joining a singsong, playing on piano, or just entertaining locals at the train station.
What’s Dickie Doing Now?
Wyke Rangers Veterans, the team he played with for the last four decades, folded in late 2016. That didn’t stopped Dickie, though, who lined up with Portland Town FC’s veteran team in a charity match shortly after. Borthwick marked his debut with the club by scoring a penalty and played 70 minutes before being subbed off. The team’s coach was impressed enough with his performance to ask Borthwick to sign for the club. Unfortunately, he admitted in an interview with The Guardian that the team had folded, a fate many veterans teams face with limited funding.
As of 2019, Borthwick has cut back a bit on playing, appearing in the occasional charity game, but keeps himself ready for when a game springs up. Around the time Borthwick joined up with Portland Town FC, he revealed he had offers to join several walking soccer teams, which slow the game down to be safer for seniors with limited fitness ability. Dickie decided it wasn’t for him, however, since he can still run at a reasonable pace for 90 minutes.
I have got a young mind, and I’m trying to match my body up with it. — Dickie Borthwick
For Borthwick, it’s not about winning or losing or holding up a big trophy at the end of the game. He’s in it for the love of the game and the friendship that comes out of it.
Veterans football has become very competitive compared to 10 years ago, and I don’t want to play for cups and medals. I want to play in a competitive game, yes, but with the social side of it afterwards – food laid on, talk about the game, have a couple of pints. I miss the banter. In one pub, we even had a post-match singalong around the piano. — Dickie Borthwick
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In March of 2019, a nine-foot paper sculpture of Borthwick was unveiled in his honor in Primrose Hill in London as part of a campaign by Stannah. The campaign surveyed 2,000 UK young adults for traits they most admired in seniors. Of the seven seniors featured as part of the campaign, Stannah chose Borthwick to honor by commissioning the sculpture.
So, whether you’re looking to get back involved with sports or just get more physically fit, remember, you’re not alone! Dickie Borthwick proves that aging doesn’t mean you have to give up the things you love, even a physically demanding sport like soccer. By following Dickie’s five Ds and maintaining the right attitude, you can follow your passions, no matter your age, too!
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