FIFA bans former Afghan football president for life over sexual assault

COMPILED FROM WIRE SERVICES
ISTANBUL
Published 08.06.2019 21:12
In this file photo taken on December 31, 2018 Afghan football boss Keramuddin Karim looks on as he speaks during an interview with AFP in Kabul. (AFP Photo)
In this file photo taken on December 31, 2018 Afghan football boss Keramuddin Karim looks on as he speaks during an interview with AFP in Kabul. (AFP Photo)

FIFA on Saturday found the former head of the Afghanistan Football Federation, Keramuddin Karim, guilty of sexually abusing female players and banned him from the sport for life.

Karim had been provisionally banned by FIFA's ethics committee following allegations made by five female Afghan players concerning acts of sexual assault committed between 2013 and 2018.

The investigation by world football's governing body found Karim "guilty of having abused his position and sexually abused various female players, in violation of the FIFA Code of Ethics."

Afghan footballer Khalida Popal -- who reportedly had collected accounts from former teammates that included sexual violence, death threats and rapes -- applauded FIFA's decision but said it was only a "first step."

"We are not done yet," she said on Twitter.

"Football is not a place for abuse... Women should be protected," she added.

Karim has previously denied the accusations, denouncing them as part of a "conspiracy" and "without evidence."

Effective immediately, Karim is banned from all football-related activity at both the national and international level.

FIFA also fined him 1 million Swiss francs ($1 million, 893,000 euros).

Karim can appeal the FIFA decision, including at the Court of Arbitration for Sport in Lausanne.

According to the Guardian, the alleged abuse took place inside the federation's headquarters in Afghanistan as well as at a training camp in Jordan last February.

FIFA, which began its investigation in December when it suspended Keram, said he had breached ethics code rules on protection of physical and mental integrity and abuse of position.

The ban applies to any kind of football-related activity.

The national women's team was formed in 2010. Some conservative-minded Afghans oppose women playing sports.

The allegations left the women's team in tatters and prompted a loss of sponsorship.

In March, an Afghan federation official said friendly matches scheduled for outside Afghanistan had been canceled because so many players had stopped training since the allegations emerged.

Many parents, alarmed by public treatment of female players, urged their daughters to give up soccer.

Afghanistan is ranked as one of the most dangerous countries for women and allegations of sexual contact outside marriage can have deadly consequences.

Victims of sexual harassment are often extremely reluctant to come forward for fear that they will be accused of adultery.

Dubai-based Alokozay Group, a company with a ubiquitous presence in Kabul selling soft drinks, tissues and tea, pulled its $850,000 annual contribution to the federation in February, following Danish sports brand Hummel, which canceled its sponsorship in late November.

Alokozay blamed an administrative vacuum resulting from the allegations and Hummel cut ties with the AFF, citing its "unacceptable behavior".

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