Afghan women's soccer officials slam FIFA over abuse probe

Kabul (AFP) –


A "culture of abuse" still thrives in Afghanistan women's football because of the way FIFA is handling allegations of sexual misconduct, top officials for the national women's team said Thursday.

In June, FIFA banned Afghanistan Football Federation's former head Keramuddin Karim for life and fined him about $1 million after finding him guilty of sexually abusing female players.

But women's team head coach Kelly Lindsey and programme director Khalida Popal said the allegations also concerned other individuals, including some still in positions of power.

In a letter sent to media, they said FIFA had been dragging its feet in following up on those allegations.

"The apparent inaction from FIFA since these concerns were raised has allowed (a) culture of abuse to continue to thrive in the AFF (Afghanistan Football Federation)," Lindsey and Popal said.

The two also lashed out at FIFA because the organisation allegedly asked the women to gather more evidence in the case, instead of sending their own investigators.

"We did this... at significant cost to our safety and wellbeing," they wrote.

"We were dismayed at the time that such a task should fall to us... but we also felt we had no choice."

FIFA told AFP it had received the letter and would answer it "shortly".

"FIFA is carefully looking into allegations that have been made against additional persons," an official said.

"As stated before, FIFA will not hesitate to impose sanctions if and when justified," it added, noting it could not comment further on the case.

FIFA also said it hoped Afghan authorities would hold to account anyone guilty of crimes. Afghan prosecutors are probing allegations.

In May, the attorney general's office issued an arrest warrant for Karim following their own investigation into him and other officials, but he has not yet come forward.

Jamshid Rasouli, a spokesman for the attorney general, said prosecutors had referred allegations to a special court tackling violence against women.

Six officials including Karim had been dismissed from their duties, he said.

Mohammad Shafi Shadab, a spokesman for the AFF, said the organisation had been fully cooperative with investigators.

"We act when there is a direct accusation by one or more than one individuals against a person involved with the AFF," Shadab said.

"We cannot take action against an AFF employee unless there is evidence or at least an accusation against him."

Last month, a lawyer for Karim said sexual abuse allegations targeting his client were based on "ghost stories" fuelled by the #MeToo movement, a reference to the online movement in which women highlighted personal experiences of abuse or harassment.