Afghanistan suspends five officials over sexual abuse on women’s football team

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Kabul: Afghanistan has suspended five officials of the country’s football federation over allegations of sexual and physical abuse against the national women’s team, the officials said on Sunday.

The decision comes days after President Ashraf Ghani directed the attorney general to conduct a thorough investigation into the alleged abuse by male officials against members of the women’s team.

The spokesman for the attorney general, Jamshid Rasuli said, “The president of the football federation, his deputy, the federation’s secretary general, the head of goalkeepers and the head of provincial coordinators have been suspended.”

The decision to suspend the soccer officials has been taken to conduct the investigations thoroughly, collect evidence and to ensure justice,” he said.

Reports said that the abuse had taken place in Afghanistan, including at the Afghanistan Football Federation (AFF) headquarters, and at a training camp in Jordan last February.

Earlier, the former captain, Khalida Popal had fled the country after receiving death threats and has spoken out previously about the discrimination women face in Afghanistan — as saying male officials were “coercing” female players.

Popal welcomed news of the suspensions, tweeting: “If we all stand together and raise our voice and become the #Voice4voiceless no one would be dare to hurt innocents. #Football is not abuse.” Safi Sadab, an AFF spokesman, told AFP the federation was ready to “cooperate with the investigation”.

Football’s world governing body FIFA has also said it was looking into the claims, while the Danish sportswear company Hummel announced it had cancelled a sponsorship deal with the team due to the allegations.

Afghanistan has made strides to promote female football — as well as the national side, four years ago it launched its first all-women’s football league that ran in parallel with the men’s. In 2017 the female teams were sidelined by a lack of funding.

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