The Flemish youth and amateur football association, Voetbal Vlaanderen, experienced an unprecedented rise in reports of aggression during last season's youth football matches. Between

August and December, the association received 337 complaints, marking a record high.

Philippe Rosier, CEO of Voetbal Vlaanderen, acknowledges the fantastic engagement of over a million participants in youth and amateur football every week. However, he highlights the downside, noting instances where children face booing, parents engage in physical altercations, and coaches exert excessive pressure on young players to win matches.

In the initial half of the last season, Voetbal Vlaanderen recorded approximately 91 cases of verbal or physical aggression both on and off the pitch. This season, the number has quadrupled, with most incidents involving transgressive and unfair behavior.

The federation has also observed an increase in sanctions imposed for aggression on the sidelines, reaching 3,808 in the first half of the season, around 400 more than the previous year. These sanctions range from fines to suspensions and, in extreme cases, life bans.

To address this concerning trend, the federation has collaborated with singer Metejoor to launch an awareness campaign. Metejoor's latest song, "De Zijlijn" (The Sideline), sheds light on the pressure he experienced as a 10-year-old footballer, emphasizing the negative impact of stress on self-confidence and the enjoyment of the game. Metejoor hopes to spare today's boys and girls from experiencing similar pressures on the football pitch. Photo by FrDr, Wikimedia commons.