Alejandro Año Villalobos, a professional MMA fighter from Costa Rica, is showing a little man from the same small country, with a big fight ahead of him some very love. The Costa Rican fighter responded to the child’s request for a selfie and hashtag without delay.
Marianno “Nanno” Lugo is an 8 year old football player, residing in Barcelona, who is determined to get in the ear of the FIFA committee which is denying him the right to play in this season’s matches. The child’s parents were informed the first week of October that Nanno was ineligible to play in official matches per FIFA Article 19 Rule.
Nanno was immediately banned from official matches. He was told to sit out by the FC Barcelonista Club Anguera to avoid fines and or sanctions that FIFA can hand down to clubs who allow the “unlicensed” children to play. The child was enrolled in the club in June 2015 and was never informed of any issues until just last week. “It’s pretty incredible that after tryouts, weekly practices and even a 3-day training trip away from home the child is told he can’t play”, said Mark Lugo Nanno’s father and the team’s delegate. “The hardest part is telling your child ‘No, you still can’t play because FIFA still has not approved your license. What eight year old understands that?”, he added.
“The hardest part is telling your child ‘No, you still can’t play because FIFA still has not approved your license. What eight year old understands that?”
Early this year, Ben Lederman(14 years old), an American born child was forced to leave F.C. Barcelona’s La Masia training facilities and head back to California to continue his football training at IMG Academy. After nearly four years of training with the football giant Barcelona, Lederman was also told he could not play in Spain.
According to Tomas Desembre, President of Penya Barcelonistas Barcino, there are currently an estimated 900 children, between the ages of 6 and 16, who are being denied the right to play football by FIFA. Desembre spoke on a local radio show earlier this week about the matter and he is working with the Federation Catalana of Football(@FCF_CAT) to get as many players licensed by FIFA. However, the organization is moving very slowly. Meanwhile, the nearly a 1000 children are benched.
Marianno Nanno Lugo, the eight year old child, who is taking on the sport giant FIFA is starting to get supporters sending emails, texts and Facebook selfie messages from all of the world.
The American-Costa Rican child started to his own hashtag campaign after his parents told him that he will not be allowed to play in the Penya Barcelonista’s ( as in FC Barcelona) weekly matches. FIFA’s Article 19 is requesting tons of paperwork and documents from children who are playing more than 50 kilometers from their home. In Marianno’s case, he was born in Costa Rica and now lives in Barcelona with his parents.
His father is an American born citizen with Puerto Rican heritage and his mother is from Costa Rica and has Italian heritage. “We chose to live in Barcelona for two reasons. One the quality of life and two to start a business in the city which set a good balance for our app development business at the time”, said Mark Lugo, Marianno father. “Nanno has loved football since a really young age. Football is a big part of the Costa Rican culture. And FIFA is stopping him playing the sport he loves. Unbelievable!”, he added.
“Nanno has loved football since a really young age. Football is a big part of the Costa Rican culture. And FIFA is stopping him playing the sport he loves.”
The sharply creative child is counting on his parents to help him put together a campaign that will get FIFA’s attention and make the necessary changes to Article 19. He is currently writing a children’s book and planning other activities that will include the hashtag he created #LetNannoPlay. “I will use social media to drive my campaign”, said Nanno. “I am eight years old. We use that stuff you know and it’s free”, he said jokingly. Nanno reads and writes English, Spanish and Catalan. He plans to deliver the campaign in all three languages. He wants everybody to understand that FIFA has taken away the rights of children to play football (soccer).
Marianno Lugo, a sharp multilingual American-Costa Rica born student soccer player, who is only eight year old is determined to play the game he loves and he is ready to face up to FIFA.
In early October, his parents were informed by the FC Barcelona youth club Penya Anguera that Marianno, known as Nanno, will not be allowed to play in league sanctioned games per a FIFA rule handed down to football federations across Spain.
As a result of the FIFA rule, at least 1500 children are not able to play in the weekly league matches. Nanno like any child didn’t take the news lightly. But unlike other children, he decided to take on the FIFA giant with the help of his father and mother. Within a few hours from being benched for the first time, he created the slogan and hashtag #LetNannoPlay and quickly was being spread across the globe via social media using YouTube, Twitter and Facebook.
The next 24 hours proved that the cause would take flight. The Let Nanno Play hashtag started to appear on well-known actors’ Facebook pages. Puerto Rican actor, Luis Guzman, known for his many movie rolls including Anger Management with Jack Nicholson responded to Nanno’s inbox message with the phrase “LET HIM PLAY!!!!” along with a selfie photo with his daughter. Another Puerto Rican actor, Luis Antonio Ramos, known for his role in the hit show POWER starting rapper 50 Cent, sent Nanno a selfie with the handwritten hashtag on what appeared to be a movie script. Former NBA Miami Heat player and now Barcelona star Carlos Arroyo met with Nanno after a F.C. Barcelona basketball game and snapped a photo holding a sign with Nanno’s hashtag.
“We are getting support from people we never met before. Total strangers are asking how they can help promote and spread the word”, said Ale Aguzzi, Nanno’s mother. “The show of support brings tears to my eyes knowing that so people are now wanting to help Nanno play the game he loves. We will not go out without a fight. FIFA needs to realize that some rules are hurting children even though they were meant to help and protect a very small few number. They are hurting thousands”, she added.
Nanno continues to work the social media campaign a few hours a day around school work and team practice. “I will continue to practice with my team. I consider myself a leader and only a non-leader will quit”, said Nanno. “I want to play football and FIFA is not letting me. This is making me sad”, he ended.
Several calls by the Lugos to FIFA have not been answered. The Federation Catalana of Football (@FCF_CAT) says they are overwhelmed with the paperwork that FIFA is requiring from foreign born children and have even set up a provincial team to handle the workload. FCF’s only communication with the Lugo is via the Penya Anguera.