Teen referee's breakdown after football match abuse

Referee whistle Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Parents and a team coach confronted the 14-year-old football referee during the match

A 14-year-old referee had a nervous breakdown after being verbally abused at a youth football tournament, it has been claimed.

The teenager's mother said the young official had faced a "very aggressive" coach and taunts from parents.

She said her child was left "a shell" and is still shaken as a result of the event in Nottinghamshire last year.

The County Football Association (CFA) said it was "fully committed to safeguarding young people in the game".

The mother of the referee, who has asked not to be identified, said one team coach came on to the pitch shouting "Who did you borrow your top from?" and "you don't know what you're doing".

"Parents of the players were also quite aggressive and abusive," she said.

"My child remained very calm and confident in the decision made."

'Like a brain injury'

She said the following day, her child was "shaking head-to-toe and crawled from the bed to the bathroom".

"They had gone downhill, from being this bubbly, enthusiastic child on Sunday morning to being just a shell and destroyed by Sunday evening," the mother said.

"It was like a brain injury, I was very terrified.

"The symptoms were so severe medics thought they may have a brain tumour."

Two weeks later, the mother said neurologists diagnosed the teenager with a nervous breakdown.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption The Football Association said it had offered "full support" to the family

After weeks of physiotherapy, they had "come back stronger", the mother said, and was now refereeing and playing again.

But she feared other young referees may not be able to "come back" from verbal abuse in football.

She said while the coach should take responsibility for his actions, it was up to organisers to safeguard those playing and officiating matches.

The charity Ref Support UK said calls to its hotline has seen a rise in physical and verbal assaults towards grassroots football referees.

The Nottinghamshire Football Association said it was only told about the case in April and it immediately offered "full support" to them.

It said: "The CFA takes abuse of match officials very seriously and is fully committed to safeguarding young people in the game.

"We hope the courage and bravery the referee and family have demonstrated in now reporting this to us will encourage all participants to report any issues and concerns they have."

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