Deaf Peterborough footballer grateful for support after opposition player banned for abusing him

A deaf footballer from Peterborough has thanked people for supporting him after being abused by an opposition player who has now been banned by the FA.
Will PalmerWill Palmer
Will Palmer

Will Palmer (18) from Hampton was playing for Stamford in an FA Youth Cup match against Lincoln United last September when he claimed offensive language referring to his deafness was used against him.

He also alleged that the same player later mocked him during the match.

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RELATED: Investigation launched after Peterborough deaf footballer ‘abused by opposition player’

Lincoln suspended their player while an investigation was carried out, and he has since been banned for seven matches by the Lincolnshire FA.

The youth team player, who the Peterborough Telegraph is choosing not to name, was also instructed to complete an online education course and was fined £75.

The suspension was inflicted by the FA back in December with the Palmer family only being informed very recently.

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Will, who was 17 when the incident happened, has a cochlear implant in his right ear which gives him access to sounds and speech.

A member of Peterborough United’s deaf football team, he has recently been selected for the England squad as they prepare for the World Cup in South Korea in September and the Deaflympic qualifiers against Russia and Greece this year.

In addition, he has been chosen for the under 21 squad as they prepare for the European Championships in Germany in June.

He said: “It’s a shame that it has to come to this in the first place. I just hope it’s taught him a lesson and other people that use this kind of abuse on the pitch a lesson. It’s good that the FA have taken action because not many deaf players have the opportunity to fix things like this.

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“I hope this has brought more awareness to the problem of deaf players being abused. I think acts like the one I faced are just as bad as racism or sexism or other forms of hate.

“I recently got contacted by the mother of a young deaf player who went through the same thing recently and the first thought in my head was that I wanted to support him and show him that he’s not alone. Quite a lot of older players said they’d experienced the same thing too.

“I’d like to say thanks to everyone who supported me and because of that support I felt able to rise above it.

“I got messages of support from at least 500 people and it showed me that there are a lot of good people out there who see it the same way I do.”

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Lincoln United declined to comment when contacted by the Peterborough Telegraph.

Lincolnshire FA was approached for comment on Monday, February 10 and twice more since but has yet to formally respond.

Will’s dad Andy, who is chief executive of the Cambridgeshire Deaf Association, said: “I’m pleased to see the FA have taken this issue seriously. It was a thoroughly unpleasant experience for everyone, including the volunteers at both Stanford and Lincoln United who had to act, but especially for Will.

“There are many players out there like him who haven’t been able to get satisfaction after being wronged in that way.

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“The player that has received the ban deserves credit for the letter of apology he wrote and the offer to meet Will to give that apology personally that wasn’t taken up. I’d like to thank him for the way he conducted himself, via Lincoln United, following the incident.

“I hope this shines a spotlight on the issue of deaf players being abused for their deafness in football and more players will have the confidence to stand up to it.

“Deaf footballers often have to work much harder in training to be recognised for their talent in mainstream football while also having to devote much more concentration to following the session correctly.

“Players relying on hearing aids or lip reading will train in the howling wind or rain under dim lights which makes things much more difficult to follow. Many others who use British Sign Language too will be constantly guessing what’s going on and are also concerned about how well they’re fitting in.

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“It’s not surprising that many other deaf or hard of hearing kids don’t continue in the sport after going along to a few training sessions.

“That said there are simple things coaches can do to get the best from those footballers.

“In my estimation, deaf players in mainstream football show a level of dedication that few people appreciate or would be prepared to match. I’m not saying deaf players deserve special treatment but they do deserve to be protected from hateful abuse that could stop them from playing the sport they love.

“From this case we can see that protection does exist and that’s a comforting fact.”