My name is Barbara, 31 years old and active at Club Brugge as Foundation Officer. Until last season I was also playing in the Superleague at Club Brugge, now active as physical coach at the women’s second team.
My story is about discrimination due to a physical disability, hearing impairment. I was born with it and have been wearing hearing aids since the age of 5. My hearing aids, because they were an external object, I was not allowed to wear during football matches.
My story dates back to March 2013, when I was playing for the second team of Club Brugge. The season before, I played for the first team but had to take a step back because I was ‘not good enough’. In season 2012-2013 in the 2nd team, we had a fantastic year and even won the championship. In March 2013, we played an important match against our direct opponent, our team played a fantastic match and many players from the first team came to watch. After the winning match, there was a lot of talk about the match and people asked, among other things, why I didn’t play for the first team then. My mother was there and then a (adult) player from the first team, who did have something to say in her team, said: ‘Because she can’t hear us’. My mother deliberately did not react to this. When she told me, I was disappointed that this was still being said in 2013.
I have only talked about it with my parents and a few friends. We did start to find out if there was a possibility to play with hearing aids. Thanks to technology, there were already models that could be worn while playing football, and so it happened. The new hearing aids gave me a boost of self-confidence and I played even better, determined to get back into the first team as soon as possible. The following season, I became a full member of the first team again and never left it. With my hearing impairment, I was even captain for a few years. At the moment, as a physical coach, I always try to treat the players the way I would have liked to be treated back then, without prejudice and with the necessary respect.
This little incident has only made me stronger and formed the person I am today. But most of all, don’t let anyone make you do it and speak with your feet. If you really want to achieve something, you will!
As a Foundation Officer, I can only be excited about a programme like ‘Show Racism The Red Card’. There is no place for racism and discrimination in the world. Treat someone the way you want to be treated!