FIFA Rules Continue to Keep Children Off The Playing Pitch
This is a story about “Fabio”. We changed the child’s real name and country of birth at his aunt’s request.
Fabio, like most kids living in Spain, enjoys playing football (soccer). Although, he wasn’t born in Spain; he has spent the last 4 years of his life in a quiet Barcelona neighborhood living with his aunt, a Spanish legal resident for more than 10 years.
He was born in “Honduras” and lived a normal life with his parents. His parents were political activists and worked with the opposing political party. When the government of the country changed drastically, Fabio’s parents were brought up on treason charges and sentenced to a long prison sentence. The boy, at only 10 years old, was left without parents. This is when his only aunt flew to Honduras and gained legal court ordered custody of the young Fabio.
His aunt like all responsible parents worked hard to get Fabio acclimated with the vibrant yet simple Catalan culture. He was enrolled in a nice school very different from the one in his native country. He played in the park, visited the local library and even learned to speak Catalan. Since, Fabio loved to play football he was in enrolled at one of FC Barcelona’s local supporter clubs. Everything was going smoothly in Fabio’s life despite the absence of his imprisoned parents.
In mid 2014, Fabio was told he could no longer play organized football because his parents were not living in Spain with him. This according to FIFA’s Article 19 rule, applied locally by the Football Federation of Cataluña and further up the chain, Royal Spanish Football Federation. At the top of this regulation is FIFA. The child has been banned from playing organized football for more than one year. This is a shame. All because of a few lines in a FIFA rule book.
FIFA’s Article 19 rule requires numerous documents for transfer and new players enrolled in youth football schools or clubs. If one document is out of order, FIFA denies the license request and a child is sidelined. Simple as that. The child can practice with the team but is not given the licensed to play in official matches.
In Fabio’s case, the local federation requested copies of Fabio’s parents’ passports. His parents were political prisoners in a foreign country. One major problem here…political prisoners in most cases are stripped of passports and other travel documents. This was Fabio’s reason for not being approved his FIFA license. The local federation did not accept an official judge’s order granting custody, therefore, the fact that Fabio’s aunt was a Spanish resident and his legal guardian didn’t matter.
There are 1000s of children who are or have been affected by FIFA’s Article 19. Of course, FIFA could say that the main reason for this rule is for the protection of children. However, FIFA is hurting many of innocent children and families with a rule that is too broad for its intended purpose. The big clubs can find talent anywhere, small clubs don’t exploit children. Small clubs keep local community children entertained, active and away from the elements of a bored, unoccupied child’s mind.
In March 2015, FIFA reduced the age of minors requiring an International Transfer Certificate (ITC) from 12 years to 10 years after a strong recommendation from the world’s professional players union FIFPro. This was the latest change to Article 19 of FIFA’s Regulation on the Status and Transfer of Players (RSTP), which governs the protection of ‘minors’ (defined as players age 18 and under) and aims to protect the welfare and development of young players in the fight against exploitation and child trafficking.
Article is written by Mark Lugo, co-founder of FairPlay4Kids.org. He became aware of FIFA’s Article 19 after his son, Marianno, was banned from playing in Spain. He read a few articles about another American child banned from playing, Ben Lederman. He played on the Barcelona team and was training at La Masia, Barcelona famed academy. His father Danny is also a co-founder of FairPlay4Kids. Together, they’re fighting for the rights of children to play organized football regardless of where they are living.