Trial: Accused soccer coach held power over aspiring players

LIVERPOOL, England — Former soccer coach Barry Bennell had a "power hold" over young boys who dreamt of being professional players, an alleged victim testified Wednesday.

Bennell, who turned 64 on Wednesday, denies 48 child sex offenses against 11 complainants between 1979 and 1990.

The jury in his trial heard from the first complainant to give evidence at Liverpool Crown Court on Wednesday. The court was shown a video of the complainant's police interview and he then gave evidence from behind a screen.

He described being abused "tens of tens, if not 100" times by Bennell. He said he first met Bennell when he came to a football training session as a scout for Manchester City.

"He would make you feel like you stood out, like you were different, like you were special," said the complainant, who has the right to anonymity in the British justice system. "Every boy just dreamed of being a footballer, so everybody wanted to please him."

He told how he and other boys would stay at Bennell's house, above a video shop which he owned, where he had two sets of bunk beds and a double bed which he would share with two boys.

Bennell would turn the lights off and play music loudly before carrying out the abuse, he said.

The complainant described the coach playing music including Billy Joel and "Abracadabra" by the Steve Miller Band as he was abused.

None of the boys spoke up at the time about what happened as they didn't want to risk their chances of making it in professional soccer.

"It was almost like an untold rule, like 'shut up,'" the complainant said. "We didn't want to spoil our chances ... he had a big power hold over us with that, which was pretty horrific."

Bennell has admitted seven offenses of indecent assault and the court has heard he has previously been convicted in England and the United States for child sex abuse.

"I would look out for lads that were possible victims," Bennell told the police. He also described a "grooming process" where he would play fight with the boys and give them "treats."

The trial, which is in its first week, is expected to last two months.

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