By Andrew Warshaw
June 10 – In its most significant stance yet to combat sexual abuse of women players, FIFA has banned for life one of the most notorious culprits, former Afghanistan Football Federation (AFF) president Keramuudin Karim (pictured), and also fined him one million Swiss francs.
Following an investigation, FIFA’s independent ethics committee said he was guilty of “abusing his position” as AFF president following complaints of “repeated” sexual abuse from 2013-18.
FIFA’s move on Saturday came just 24 hours after its much-trumpeted first ever women’s football convention in Paris which extolled the virtues of the women’s game but missed a vital opportunity to address the scourge of sexual harassment pervading the sport.
Giving the keynote address on the second day of the convention, Gianni Infantino proudly announced that FIFA would be investing $500 million in women’s football over the next four years but said precious little about how it would be tackling discrimination or sexual harassment and abuse.
Late last year Karim was removed from office by the country’s attorney general while the allegations against him by members of the women’s national team and Kelly Lindsey, the team’s American former head coach, were investigated. FIFA followed suit by temporarily sidelining him during the course of their own ongoing probe into what were described as “shocking” claims of sexual abuse.
In an interview with Insideworldfootball in the spring, Khalida Popal, former head of women’s football in Afghanistan who first lifted the lid on Karim’s alleged conduct, urged FIFA to maintain pressure on those responsible and not to allow the issue to be swept under the carpet by the Afghan authorities.
Popal, who was forced to flee the country seven years ago and seek asylum in Denmark after receiving death threats, said the evidence was overwhelming and called for Karim to be kicked out for good which is exactly what has now happened after he was found guilty of “having abused his position and sexually abused various female players, in violation of the FIFA Code of Ethics.”
FIFA said its investigation was based on allegations from “at least” five Afghani players. Part of the evidence was that Karim was accused of locking victims in an office that could only be opened with his fingerprint. Women who resisted or complained were branded as lesbians, a criminal offense in Afghanistan.
In a statement released at the time of the allegations, the AFF said it “vigorously rejects” the allegations and said it had a “zero tolerance approach” to abuse.
It said the allegations were being driven by “former employees” while Karim totally denied any wrongdoing.
But the federation has now changed its tune amid reports that Afghan authorities have issued an arrest warrant against Karim, the most senior football official to be to be criminally charged with abusing female players but whose whereabouts are apparently unknown.
In all officials from five countries on four continents have now been accused of abusing female players.
At a press conference following his re-election last week, Infantino was specifically asked about the issue which he insisted FIFA was taking “very seriously”.
“These people have nothing to do with football and should be out,” he said. “Even one case is one case too many.”
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