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FIFA Bars Afghan Soccer Chief for Life After Sexual Assault Accusations



PARIS — FIFA on Saturday barred the president of Afghanistan’s soccer association from the sport for life, months after reports emerged that he had sexually assaulted players and had threatened them when they went public with their accusations.

Soccer’s global governing body announced the punishment against the Afghan official, Keramuddin Keram, on the second day of the Women’s World Cup in France. It said that Mr. Keram had “abused his position and sexually abused various female players, in violation of the FIFA Code of Ethics.”

Mr. Keram also was fined one million Swiss francs (about $1 million).

The sanctions against Mr. Keram were the most significant yet issued by FIFA against a senior official accused of sexual misconduct. The punishment comes amid a string of accusations of rape, sexual abuse and harassment by women in a game long dominated by men. Last month, officials in Gabon announced a judicial investigation into claims that members of the country’s under-20 women’s team had been raped and mistreated by federation staff members during a tournament in France.

Khalida Popal, one of the original players on the Afghan women’s team and a longtime manager, said in a Twitter post on Saturday that she was pleased with the ban of Mr. Keram, but that it was only a first step.

“We are not done yet,” she wrote, adding: “We shouldn’t let the abuse culture in Football. Women should be protected.”

FIFA said its Afghan investigation had based its findings on complaints lodged by at least five women’s soccer players who had accused Mr. Keram of repeated sexual abuse from 2013 to 2018, while he served as president of the Afghanistan Football Federation.

FIFA first suspended Mr. Keram after the accusations became public in December. That suspension was extended this spring while investigators for the FIFA ethics committee pursued the case. A criminal investigation of Mr. Keram and three other Afghan soccer officials was believed to be nearing completion, Afghan officials have said.

Other claims of abuse or inappropriate conduct have emerged in Canada, Colombia and Ecuador, as well as in FIFA’s top leadership. A vice president of the organization, Ahmad Ahmad, faces accusations of sexual harassment from several women who worked with him in his role as the head of African soccer’s governing body.

The accusations against Mr. Keram were particularly troubling, painting a picture of a menacing figure who held sway over players’ careers and lives, threatening them with ruin if they did not comply. Young women said the 57-year-old official, who has two wives, had a locked room in his office, where he sexually assaulted them, charges they made both in public statements and to Afghan prosecutors.

Women who rebuffed his advances were labeled lesbians and expelled from the team, according to eight former players who said that it had happened to them. Those who went public said they faced intimidation.

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