EXPAT children are being denied the opportunity to play football in Spain.
New rules introduced by the Spanish Football Federation mean they are finding it increasingly difficult to obtain a licence (ficha) to play in Spain’s amateur leagues.
While the parents say this is discriminatory, Spain’s FA argues that the regulations have been introduced to combat child trafficking.
SOS Racism has now filed a complaint to UEFA and FIFA, following numerous complaints from disgruntled parents.
One, Reg Winkworth ‘cannot believe’ the discrimination his 16-year-old son Sam has faced since joining Club Deportivo Guadiaro in Sotogrande.
Born in Marbella, Sam has played in Spanish leagues since 2013 when he played for Castellar.
However, he has been unable to get a licence since transferring to Guadiaro in August 2015.
“It is blatant racism, no question about it,” Winkworth, who has lived in Spain for 20 years, told the Olive Press.
“Sam has paid his fees (€60) like everyone else, he trains hard every week and it is heartbreaking for him that he is not allowed to play.”
He added: “At first I thought Sam was being singled out but the more parents I speak to it is clearly endemic.
“Every week we see Cristiano Ronaldo and co wearing their Kick it Out tops on match day, but it is totally hypocritical when this kind of discrimination is taking place at grassroots level.”
Sam’s club told the Olive Press its ‘hands are tied’ by the ‘excessive red tape’ that has been introduced.
A spokesman for SOS Racism described the situation as ‘intolerable’.
“Many children are being discriminated against,” he said. “The regulations put in place exceed the FA’s goal in the extreme.
“It is unfair to put foreign children at a disadvantage compared to nationals.”
The regulations (see box, above) were put in place to stop child trafficking, largely from Africa, to professional and semi-professional academies across Europe.
The Spanish FA refused to comment on ‘FIFA approved regulations’.
Both UEFA and FIFA are yet to respond to SOS Racism or Olive Press questions.
Putting a foot wrong
UNDER FIFA rules brought in to protect children from ‘exploitation and abuse’, a player must be 18 to be transferred internationally.
This law applies to all FIFA-regulated amateur leagues in Spain, and came in after a study found that 15,000 young players leave Africa each year under false pretences of playing in Europe.
However, it should not be enforced if a player’s parents have moved country for non-football related reasons.