By Andrew Warshaw
July 4 – Afghanistan women’s coach Kelly Lindsey, one of those who blew the lid on sexual abuse by the country’s federation chief and others, has blasted FIFA president Gianni Infantino, accusing him of not doing nearly far enough to stamp out the scourge.
FIFA began an investigation in December into the alleged abuse of at least five Afghan female players between 2013-18 and earlier this month banned Afghan FA president Keramuddin Karim for life.
But Lindsey says other alleged culprits have got away with their antics.
“They didn’t investigate anyone but the president,” Lindsey told Reuters. “They didn’t go any deeper than the top layer. I’m disgusted with him [Infantino] as a human being, as a leader of our sport.
“He should not be president of FIFA in my mind. I respect the Women’s World Cup, I respect what FIFA does for football. But I do not respect the way they are governing right now. We gave them a clear and concise opportunity to do the right thing and show that they have integrity.”
“They cannot continue like this and just let players, coaches, referees be abused behind the scenes and brush it under the rug.”
In response to her comments, a FIFA spokesperson told Reuters by email: “In early 2018, FIFA was made aware of sexual abuse allegations in Afghanistan football and immediately began to investigate these serious matters in a way that would ensure… the safety and security of those abused and their families.”
Lindsey was speaking on the sidelines of the launch of ‘Fearless Football’, an initiative set up by the social enterprise body Asian Football Development Project (AFDP) Global and its founder, former FIFA presidential candidate Prince Ali Bin Al Hussein of Jordan, aimed at eliminating abuse in the women’s game.
More than 75 current and former players have so far signed a global petition calling for female players to be better protected.
Speaking at the launch of the campaign on Wednesday in Lyon to co-incide with the latter stages of the Women’s World Cup, Prince Ali said that while the tournament had been an inspiration for aspiring players, “we cannot ignore the fact that abuse, harassment and exploitation continue to undermine the integrity and standing of the women’s game.”
Prince Ali says that whilst all the talk around FIFA has long been about corruption, “this subject was never broached. And looking into it, it’s really endemic and it’s not just in Afghanistan but it’s been going on in places around the world.”
“The message is clear – the abuse of women and girls will not be tolerated and immediate action must be taken to stop this disgraceful state of affairs.”
In her own powerful address, Lindsey told those present: “In my career as a coach and a leader in women’s football, I’ve been privileged to see first-hand the remarkable drive that women and girls have to play football. I’ve also seen how these hopes and dreams can be left in tatters because of a system that failed to protect them and was then too slow to take action even when the evidence of abuse was overwhelming.
“We can’t hide away from the terrible consequences of these failings. I have known survivors of abuse who have lived in fear, not only of their livelihoods but of their very lives, and who have had to escape their country and request asylum.
“Abuse and its consequences cannot be brushed under the carpet. We need leadership that extends from governing bodies right the way down to grassroots football – leadership that will protect players and staff and hold people to account. Nothing less than zero tolerance will do.”
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