A campaign has been launched internationally to combat sexual harassment and exploitation of women in football after shocking revelations about the abuse taking place, and deep concern over the seeming inadequacy of the measures to stop it happening.
Public figures, current and former professional players and managers and human rights activists have come together to stress the vital need for the sport’s governing body to take immediate steps to prevent such cases from recurring.
As the Women’s World Cup takes place in France to record numbers in the stadiums and watching on television, the Association Football Development Programme Global (AFDP), which seeks to unite communities through football, has produced a petition to accompany the initiative #FearlessFootball urging the public as well as those involved in the sport to give support.
The founder of AFDP Global, Crown Prince Ali Bin Al Hussein of Jordan, said: “The era in world football governance which has allowed coaches, staff and officials to misuse their power in the treatment of women and girls must end now
“The launch of the campaign is a landmark moment for the integrity of the game as we can look forward to a brighter future where every girl and woman can play football with safety and integrity
“Everyone who cares deeply about the integrity and standing of the women’s game needs to work together.”
The campaign is being backed by, among others, by Aleksandr Ceferin, the President of Uefa and former international footballers Eniola Aluko, Kelly Smith, Khalida Popal, Jamie Carragher, Robbie Fowler, Robert Pires, Louis Saha, Landon Donovan and manager Gerard Houllier.
In the most high profile recent case involving abuse Fifa provisionally suspended the President of the Afghanistan Football Federation (AFF) for alleged sexual abuse. It was viewed as a rare success for women footballers in the country who say that allegations had been brushed aside in the past by the Afghanistan Football Federation and the Asian Football Federation.
Scandals in other countries have also emerged such as in Colombia where a physiotherapist, Carolina Rozo, from the under-17 team disclosed how she had fallen into depression after being targeted by a coach who had also groomed teenage girl players.
The AFDP campaign calls for the implementation of measures including safeguarding codes and educational programmes; whistleblowing and reporting mechanisms; strictly upholding enforcement policies and providing victims with the required support.
Kelly Lindsey, manager of the Afghan women’s team said: “By signing and sharing the #FearlessFootball peitition, we can ensure that these women and girls are no longer ignored. The case in Afghanistan is not an isolated one and highlights profound failings in the integrity of world football governance.”
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