'There Was Blood Everywhere': Afghan Woman Footballer Recounts Sexual Assault by Now-Banned FA Chief

News18 Sports
FIFA has banned Keramuddin Keram, former president of the Afghanistan Football Federation, from all football-related activities for life after finding him guilty of sexually abusing female players.

"There was blood everywhere," one of the victims who was sexually assaulted by Keramuddin Keram said. On Saturday, FIFA banned Keram from football for life after FIFA's ethics committee found him guilty of abusing his position and sexually abusing female players.

Keram, also a former FIFA Standing Committee member, was accused by at least five Afghan female football players of repeated sexual abuse between 2013 and 18, FIFA said in a statement. Apart from the ban, he was also fined 1 million Swiss francs (approx. Rs 7 crore).

Britain's Guardian newspaper first reported in November last year that senior figures linked to the Afghan women's team had alleged that some players had been sexually assaulted by officials from the federation.

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.

Afghanistan President Ashraf Ghani ordered an investigation into the matter based on the report and FIFA began its investigation in December, suspending Keram by saying he had breached ethics code rules on protection of physical and mental integrity and abuse of position.

Victim 1 recalled that Keram put a gun to her head and punched her in the face after a sexual assault, which happened in a hidden bedroom he accessed from his office.

Two more victims, who escaped the assault, talked about the intimidation they had to face for the same. Victim 2, who escaped during an assault, said she was threatened that her tongue would be cut off.

Victim 3 alleged that she rejected his advances after which she was dropped from the national squad and was labelled a lesbian.

The national women's team was formed in 2010 and some conservative-minded Afghans opposed of women playing sports. The allegations, which surfaced in November, 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 cancelled 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 cancelled its sponsorship in late November.

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