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May 15, 2007

Young footballer with hearing aids victim of discrimination

In a blatant case of discrimination, a football referee forced a 12 year-old player to take off his hearing aids in the middle of a boys' league game in Madrid, Spain. To the surprise of the referee, the audience grew so incensed at his harsh treatment of the boy, that he had to stop the game and call the police to be escorted off the field.

The boy named Mario has been playing football since the age of six and is a regular on the youngest category league team of theC.D.Griñón football club. His personal player profile clearly specifies that he wears hearing aids. No doctor or referee had previously found any reason why the boy should not play and enjoy football with his hearing aids.

However, on March 17 while Mario was playing in the game between C. D. Griñón and Fuenlabrada, the referee, Francisco Javier García Gómez, stopped the match 8 minutes before the end of the first half and asked Mario to remove his hearing aids. The child could not understand why and started crying. Then the referee threatened to send him off if he did not remove his hearing aids.

The frustrated child took his hearing aids off, explaining that he would probably be unable to hear an offside call. The referee shouted at him: “Can you hear me now?! Yes?! So, go and play!,” according to several witnesses, including Mario's mother.

Mario's mother was angry and devastated. “We have been fighting for 12 years so our child does not feel discriminated against or different from other children, and you ruined it all in a second,” she said to the referee, according to the onlineelmundo.es newspaper.

The astonished audience reacted so angrily towards the referee that he cancelled the rest of the match and called the police to be escorted out of the stadium.

Mario's parents' frustration grew when they learned that the Madrid Football Federation is unlikely to take any step against the referee. However, they said they will pursue all possible social and legal means to prevent such discrimination and humiliation of children with disabilities in the future.

Mario played for his team again one week after the traumatic experience. He was wearing his hearing aids without any interference from the referee.

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