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Referee leading effort to stop abuse of officials meets with El Paso teen assaulted during tournament

Brian Barlow has been a soccer referee for decades. He’s experienced his fair share of verbal abuse.

But, for the past year and a half, he’s made it his goal to fight back against the abuse. He created the Facebook page “Offside” in which he shows videos of parents, coaches and players lashing out at referees. He wants to shame them for their behavior, and he said the videos get thousands of views.

“I have over 4,000 videos now of people capturing referee abuse,” Barlow said. “In youth sports the game is for the children. It’s for the kids.”

Last week, ABC-7 reported on an incident that left a teenager hospitalized. 17-year-old Roberto Eager was the referee for a soccer tournament between a Juarez and Las Cruces team.

The teams were comprised of nine to ten year-olds. Eager’s family said the game turned violent after a coach was given a red card for screaming vulgar insults. The coach then allegedly hit Eager in the back of the head, causing him to blackout.

Eager spent a night in the hospital. He had a concussion and a broken cheek bone. Barlow learned about the incident, and contacted Eager.

“I get it. I’m on your side. I know your pain. I understand what you go through as a referee,” Barlow said.

On Thursday Barlow, Eager and his father all met up. Barlow offered his support, and some guidance.

“I got a little bit of tunnel vision I think going through that, and just have to be a lot more careful and a lot more aware of all of your surroundings,” Eager said. ” Anything can happen at any given time.”

Barlow said his Facebook page has led to parents, coaches and even players being kicked out of leagues because of their behavior.

“We have to put our foot down and say enough is enough,” Barlow said. “There’s a solution, but we all got to jump on board.”

Eager said he plans on going back to refereeing again. Eager’s father Ricardo tells ABC-7 they have filed a lawsuit against the coach. The El Paso Police Department confirmed with ABC-7 that they are investigating the incident as assault, but the coach has not been charged.

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