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Youth football: A hotbed of violence?

Youth football
Youth football - hot fights
©: umbertoleporini - Fotolia

Early December another football game of the C-Youth in Hannover (Germany) ended in a bloody tragedy. Approximately with the manpower of one team (meeting Mühlenberger SV versus Arminia Hannover) the 18-year old umpire was beaten and kicked. The referee was hospitalized with multiple facial injuries and complained of pain all over his body.

An inquest was launched on the grounds of assault. Also, SV Muhlenberg (Germany) announced consequences to follow. One of the options was to dissolve the C-Youth. However, this would not solve the problem of football and violence, particularly not in youth football. This kind of problem is nothing new but stretches across the country.

Study: "The phenomena of violence in (amateur) football."

At the Institute of Criminology at the University of Tübingen (Germany), a pilot study in collaboration with the Württemberg Football Association was conducted. The topic: "The phenomena of violence in (amateur) football". In the study, the typical manifestations of violence in football were examined as well as the reactions to it. In other words, if there are any strategies or sanctions in place, on behalf of the associations, in response to the violence. The focus of the study was primarily of the factors which were criminological relevant to perpetrators and victims alike. Besides age and gender, for example, their regional and ethnic origin. The study was based on the verdicts of sports courts, within the time period from 2009 to 2011, whenever serious crimes were punished. They also looked at all games which were terminated prematurely as well as physical attacks of referees. Correspondingly they interviewed those referees in the jurisdiction of the Württemberg Football Association.

Youth football - the keeper
Youth football - the keeper
©: umbertoleporini - Fotolia

Contrary to the impression of the media, the study came to the conclusion that the situation has improved for the referees. This was achieved through some changes to their rules, which were introduced in the season 2010/11. Among the innovations was the use of designated place allocators, which was received positively by impartial officials.

What are the causes of the violence in the field?

The reality is, violence on the soccer field is perceived more intensely than it actually is, not at least because of the media coverage. The rapid distribution of “news”, including social media channels, give the potential for a small brawl soon to look like a big fight and might trigger a spiral of violence. Thaya Vester, who significantly contributed to the Tübingen study, warns against exaggeration of incidents. And additionally I think that repetitive coverage on TV also gives the impression of more violence because you see the same incident over and over again.

In highly emotional sports, such as football, violence was always an issue. The fact that there is a perceived or maybe not so perceived opinion amongst the audience, that the referee manipulated the result of a football meeting could give rise to uninhibited responses by the fans. On one hand, there is also the involvement of alcohol on the grandstands and, on the other hand, inflicted violence remains without consequences in most cases.

The problem and the bad role model is sitting on the bench

Youth football
Youth football
©: Kurt Michel -

  1. The ambition of the parents:

    One particular problem in youth soccer are the parents of the players. It is not uncommon that they project their own expectations of an athletic career, which in most cases failed, onto their children. Those highly charged emotions are felt by the players on the field and not seldom, a harmless “scraping” among the players escalates.

  2. Wrong ambitions of the coach:

    However, overly ambitious coaches do heat up the aggressive mood as well. Sometimes it can be hard for the coach to cope with a wrong decision of an umpire. After all, a lost game also reflects on the coach. Needless to say, if the coach is already out of control, by now the fuse is ignited as well.

  3. Negatively affected kids:

    In reality, the kids are the only victims in this scenario. Children sometimes observe their parents at their worst behaviour. Watching them, standing on the sidelines and swearing at the coach, the referee and opposing parents like troopers, showing their most dangerous social conduct. Not a good example. It is not really surprising that a game sometimes gets out of hand.

Youth football Team
Youth football Team ©: scarlett - Fotolia

Sport as compensator and as a recovery from stress and frustration

Actually, sport should serve as a compensator for the experienced stress of everyday life. No matter if at school or the workplace. Sport can help you to break down frustration. However, out of false ambitions and expectations on sides of the adults, frustration every so often is carried out against the referee or other players.

The fair play should move back into the centre of the game. However, this will only happen if the adults starting with a fair play example.

Note: Violence is not only involved in football, but other sports as well. Even outside the sporting event, triggered by overambitious parents who "fight" for their kids.

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