Golakeeper, 14, with Tourettes banned from playing football after he told the ref to f*** off

Owen Thompson, 14, with his mum Melanie Burgess. The Tourettes sufferer was banned for two games for swearing at a ref
Owen Thompson, 14, with his mum Melanie Burgess. The Tourettes sufferer was banned for two games for swearing at a ref

A young footballer with Tourette’s Syndrome has been banned for two games after he swore at the referee.

Goalkeeper Owen Thompson, 14, became frustrated after the official allowed a contentious goal which led to Ware Youth under-15s losing 2-1 to the Bengeo Tigers.

He disagreed with the referee’s decision and told him to “f**k off”.

Owen Thompson, 14, with his mum Melanie Burgess. The Tourettes sufferer was banned for two games for swearing at a ref
Owen Thompson, 14, with his mum Melanie Burgess. The Tourettes sufferer was banned for two games for swearing at a ref

Owen, who once had trials for Watford FC, was reported to his local FA and slapped with a two-game suspension and a £25 fine for foul and abusive language on the pitch.

Football chiefs imposed the punishment despite the young footballer holding a medical card for Tourette’s, which makes him prone to sudden outbursts of obscene language.

Owen’s condition is so bad he can’t stop himself wondering around run down parts of town shouting “chavs” at gangs of older men.

Frustrated Owen, from Stanstead Abbotts, Herts., said after the FA’s decision he is now considering quitting football.

He added said he “saw a different side” of himself after the controversial goal decision.

He added: “The referee allowed a goal in the last second of the game. He said it was on-side when the linesman had flagged it off-side.

“He came up to me after the game to shake my hand, but I was angry about the decision so I refused to shake his hand.

“I was ticking all over the place because I was stressed and so I told him to F**K off.

“My manager came over to show him my card to explain I had Tourette’s syndrome and ADHD and I thought he had taken it into account.

“But then he issued me with a ban and a fine. “The decision does not seem fair at all. My manager has fought against the decision.

“Football often suppresses my ticks, but I cannot control them when I get upset or stressed.

“I have never been in that situation before in football, most linesmen and referees are OK. He just really stressed me out.

“After the decision I just saw a different side of me that Tourette’s causes. I care about football so much and despite what I’ve said I will never give it

“People think Tourette’s is a joke because of all the programmes which show it as a comedy disease, but it is not.

“Tourette’s is not funny, it is really hard to cope with. I want to stand up for people with Tourette’s and show what it is really like.”

Owen’s mother Melanie Burgess, 37, said: “It has always been me and Owen against everyone, trying to get people to accept his condition so we are really grateful that his football team has supported us on this.”

Owen has a card proving he has Tourette’s Syndrome and Attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). He is due to serve his match ban at the Ware Youth under-15s game on Sunday.

Melanie added : “After the game the referee went over to Owen’s manager. He showed the referee the medical card that shows Owen has Tourette’s syndrome.

“But last week we learnt he has been given a two-match ban and a £25 fine. It’s ridiculous.

“Football is a really important part of his life.”

Ware Youth under-15s manager Alistair West said: “You can’t ban a Tourette’s sufferer for swearing.

“I always show the other manager his card and tell the other parents. And every single parent and manager has been fantastic – we’ve not had one complaint.

“It’s frustrating because he’s a really good kid.

Owen, who was diagnosed with Tourette’s last year, refused to shake the referees hand and the stress of the situation caused him to have an outburst during the match on October 7.

Ware Youth secretary Sue Thomas said Owen, who has played for the club for six years, has an exemplary discipline record.

The team appealed Owen’s ban and paid £10 to make a written representation, but Hertfordshire FA upheld the decision.

Owen could make a second appeal, with a charge of £50, to have his case heard by the FA at Wembley.

Hertfordshire FA chief executive Nick Perchard said: “The player swore at the referee twice and then walked away and refused to talk to the referee when asked to explain his actions.

“After the match, the referee reported the incident to us and the player was charged with improper conduct.

“The committee took the player’s condition in to account and the one-match suspension imposed was in regards to the playing refusing to return to the field of play to discuss why he had sworn at the referee.

“The committee decided that the lack of respect shown to the match official was not connected to his medical condition.

“This has been a highly unusual case, but Hertfordshire FA remains committed to helping as many players as possible enjoy the game regardless of ability or ongoing medical issues.”

Hertfordshire FA has now reduced Owen’s punishment to a one-match ban and a #15 fine, on November.

Owen spent half a term off school last year with severe depression as he came to terms with his Tourette’s developing into swearing.

Bright Owen is in mostly top sets at The Chauncy School, in Ware, Herts.

Melanie, a special needs teaching assistant, said Owen’s condition is a “real battle every day” and football was the only thing keeping him going.

The mother-of-three said: “I think a lot of TV programmes are ready to pick fun of Tourette’s sufferers.

“There’s another side to it – it’s not just about saying funny things out loud.

“I took him to a specialist because I thought he had a nervous twitch. It started out just blinking and screwing up his face but the tics have become verbal.

“Stress and feeling uncomfortable brings them on. He comes home from school exhausted from trying to suppress them. It’s a real battle every day.

“We’ve tried reducing additives and magnesium in his food, pro-biotics and medication. Just as we think he’s getting better all of a sudden this sets him back.”

Owen said he was inspired to keep playing by Everton goalkeeper Tim Howard, who also has Tourette’s.

He said: “He is my inspiration. I look up to him.”


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