FIFA has barred the president of Afghanistan’s soccer association from the sport for life. Keramuddin Keram was accused several months ago of sexually assaulting players and threatening them if they came forward with the accusations.
The punishment came on June 8th, the second day of the Women’s World Cup in France. The governing body stated Keram had, “abused his position and sexually abused various female players, in violation of the FIFA Code of Ethics.” Keram was also fined 1 million Swiss francs (about $1 million US dollars).
Barring Keram has been the most significant action taken against an official accused of sexual misconduct in the history of FIFA. Since the beginning of the year, coaches and administrators in five countries on four continents have been accused of sexual misconduct, inappropriate behavior, and even rape.
In fact, the problem reaches all the way to one of the vice presidents of FIFA, Ahmad Ahmad, who was accused of dismissing an employee after she rejected his romantic advances. Not even the host country of the World Cup is faultless. A judicial investigation is underway for claims that women of Gabon’s under-20 women’s team were raped and mistreated while attending a recent tournament in France. FIFA has been trying to reorganize and address all concerns of misconduct after facing a corruption scandal in 2015 led to several arrests.
Most importantly, with the advancement of the #MeToo movement, more women than ever before are coming forward in what has long been considered a boy’s club to address the ways they’ve been mistreated since the start of this year.
In Keram’s case, the verdict has been a long time coming. Khalida Popal was an original member of the Afghan women’s team and a longtime manager. She wrote in a Twitter post that she was pleased with the ban but ready for more. “We are not done yet. We shouldn’t let the abuse culture in Football. Women should be protected,” she wrote.
FIFA officials say they based their decision on complaints from at least five players who accused Karam of repeated sexual abuse from 2013-2018. According to the women, he would lead them to a locked room in his office where he kept a bed and then sexually assaulted them. Women who rejected him were labeled lesbians and kicked off the team. Those who went public were intimidated and threatened by Keram to stay silent.
The entire investigation took nearly a year, as women couldn’t obtain passports or visas to make their statements in person, as is required by Afghan and FIFA law. FIFA didn’t suspend Keram until the accusations became public in December 2018. The suspension was extended this past spring as the ethics committee further investigated the claims. Not only was Keram under investigation but three other Afghan officials as well for separate instances of sexual misconduct.
While it is incredibly important that these women are starting to get the justice they deserve, it is equally disheartening to find so many males abusing their positions of power. Many women’s soccer teams are fighting to be paid and treated the same as their male counterparts. They shouldn’t have to worry about sexual misconduct too.