SportsA VAR for parents to end violence in grassroots football

A VAR for parents to end violence in grassroots football


– Javi. Today is a very important day for us eh, you cannot fail.

– Shhh, at the slightest contact, stir, always try to force the card.

– All the games played up to here are useless if you don’t win today.

– You play it today. If you do what I tell you, in a few years you will be a star.

– If I were the coach, we would always win.

– Do you want to be like Isco? Well, play like him, don’t be silly on the field.

– If they approach you from behind in the area, jump, many times the referee bites.

– There is my son; to mow it, cunt. Referee, you’re blind, you bastard, they’re making dust on my boy.

Javi is a 10 year old boy. Play soccer. He who speaks, with his voice in off in a lovely ad, it’s her father. It is likely that many fathers and mothers have recognized themselves in these phrases. Or that they have heard them.

The stands of the grassroots football fields are increasingly full of parents who shout and insult. Disrespectful even towards their own children, the referee, other teammates, rivals, the coach … Parents who forget the educational aspect of sport, that those who play are children and that at those ages football is fun and learning. This is how Ángel Jiménez, one of the people in charge of a project of the Malaga City Council, explains it to end violence in football and turn clubs into an example of behavior where insults and violence have no place. “The importance of victory in the result of the match is excessive and whatever is used to achieve it. And it consists of whatever it is, of your child’s emotions, of the happiness of your child and of others, of respect for the referee. If necessary, they cheat, even from a young age they are encouraged and applauded. As anything goes, we trample on anyone ”, he laments.

Other regrets and complaints began to reach José Urbano, coach of the sports area of ​​the Malaga City Council. “More and more parents were telling me: ‘this can’t go on like this’. At first they were some suggestions, later a group contacted us more firmly with the idea of ​​creating a club model that would defend the values ​​of fair play, ”he says by phone. Urbano decided to create a platform, 090 is called (0 violence in 90 minutes), to take care of those values, promote them and defend them in the 30 municipal fields of the province of Malaga. Insult prohibited. Violence prohibited. Remote control of children is prohibited. He relates it like this: “Some parents have such internalized verbal violence that they are not aware of what they are doing. I have recorded some of them to be heard and when they have done it they have been ashamed ”.

The platform started up in February 2019. They have focused mainly on the categories of youngest and fry (from 8 to 12 years old) without neglecting the others. The incident data they collected was devastating. They are detailed by Edgar Illa, another of those responsible for this project. “90% of the altercations in non-professional sports in Spain are related to football, and although incidents in professional football are decreasing, they are not in grassroots football. We saw spectator incidents increase 85% from the previous season. In 40% of cases the referee is usually the epicenter ”.

“Would you insult your son? Educating is winning “

They made a first search to see first-hand what was happening in the fields; in the second, they came to convey their message to the coaching staff, the public and the players. They put together a communication and awareness campaign in which an email and contact telephone number were made known to send incidents – they arrived and continue to arrive at the mailbox. Then they started with training: both for the ambassadors of the platform as for the clubs. “They asked us for help and we sent a psychologist to speak with the coaches or with some more troubled parents,” explain those responsible for 090. A meeting point was also created at which the territorial federation, the national police, civil protection, the city council and clubs brought together problems and possible actions to solve them.

Finally, last spring the so-called adhesion agreement / contract was created. Urbano explains: “We started with three clubs, Puerta Blanca Soccer School, Atlético San Julián and Unión Deportiva la Mosca. The idea is to expand it to all. It is so that parents who register their child for a soccer team know what the rules are. And so that everyone who passes through that field says: ‘Hey, I want to be like these.’ The signatories undertake to comply with an ethical code: they ensure the good image and values ​​of sport. That is to say: respect, dignity, equal treatment, rejection of violence, racism, intolerance, discrimination and xenophobia.

In the facilities there are stickers on the doors and in the enclosure. Before the matches, ballots are distributed with the decalogue of norms and principles. Banners are displayed on the football field itself before matches. There is the VAR for the viewer. “Our VAR? See, encourage, respect ”. And this one: “Would you insult your son? Educating is winning ”. In the 30 municipal fields 33 clubs play, there are 400 federated teams and more than 7,500 licenses.

The ballot that is distributed before the games.

Antonio Ternero, father of a boy from Atlético San Julián, celebrates the adhesion contracts. “I heard real atrocities towards the referees and aberrant things to the children. It is that he could not allow himself to reach those terms or continue listening to them. We have made progress, there is still more to do, but the results are already being seen in this field. It is encouraged, it shouts but the limits are not crossed ”. He also says that last week the club received congratulations from a referee. “He told us that it was obvious that there was a job behind him and that he had been pleasantly surprised how the coaches, after whistling a foul against, told the children: quick, get back on track that nothing has happened.”

The adhesion contract consists of 12 pages. The antecedents, the scope of action, the obligation (for children, parents, guardians, coaching staff, management) to comply with the code of ethics are detailed. Each club has to appoint a 090 coordinator and a delegate who is in charge of ensuring compliance with the code of ethics and collecting incidents. If there are, they are broadcast and every Monday they are analyzed between parents, footballers and coaches. And the one who breaches? Illa replies: “By means of the agreement, what we ask of the clubs is that they comply with their own internal regulations. If they do not have it, we provide them with a code of ethics. Lack of commitment to the project is a breach of the agreement. If it happens, we stop providing sports equipment, kits, training workshops and emotional intelligence courses ”.

Urbano welcomes these small steps but believes that for the violence to end once and for all, more involvement is needed from the institutions. “We are very clear about what to do. But it goes slow because we can’t do it all alone. What stops us the most are not parents, but the institutions themselves, which do not do the least they could do, ”he laments. And all three agree: “If each referee of the federation suspended the game at the first insult he hears in the stands, this will end quickly.” But not all of them do. It is summarized by Ángel Jiménez, who was a collegiate: “Because many want to be promoted. The territorial federations, in addition, live from grassroots football and do not want problems in the games or with the clubs ”.

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