The dark side of professional sports in England — in the most watched league in the world, the Premier League — reports from players that they were sexually abused as youth soccer players flood the news. The horror of the abuse finally sees the light of day.
Somehow, when a youth soccer player is abused by their coach – the person who they look up to to help them learn the sport they love — the betrayal cuts deeply into my soul.
According to the Times, “Andrew Woodward became the first professional soccer player in Britain to go public with his claims of sexual abuse.”
“It was emotional blackmail, all the time,” says Woodward
Woodwards dreams of becoming a professional soccer player were everlastingly impacted by what the Guardian calls “the coach, scout and serial paedophile Barry Bennell.”
“My life has been ruined until the age of 43,” Woodward says. “But how many others are there? I’m talking about hundreds of children who Barry Bennell cherry-picked for various football teams and who now, as adults, might still be living with that awful fear.”
The Times reported, “In the words of Greg Clarke, the chairman of the Football Association, the governing body that oversees much of soccer in England, it is “one of the biggest crises” in the sport’s history, one that has left Mr. Woodward and many others who suffered at the hands of coaches and officials permanently scarred.”
Woodward — who played for the Crewe Alexandra — may have endured decades of painful silence before being able to speak up — and now that he has, other professional soccer players are joining their voices to the cry of abuse.
The glitter of a professional sports career might have been a fantasy for working class youths — but it should have been a dream come true without the ordeal of the nightmare of sexual abuse.
Those who know or suspect sexual abuse is happening have a responsibility to speak up.
Not noticing the hints is no longer socially acceptable. Why it ever was astounds me, but we can only change the future and impact the present. Let’s agree not to let this happen again. Anywhere.