Officials from the Afghanistan Football Federation have been accused of sexually and physically abusing team members, with 6 members of the country’s football federation (AFF) now suspended over the serious allegations.
Among those suspended was the AFF's president, Keramuddin Keram, whom several players — many of them from deprived backgrounds — accused of offering them financial incentives and a better life in exchange for sex.
Khalida Popal, one of the original players on the women’s team and a longtime manager, said Mr. Keram had sexually harassed players in a bedroom in his office. She said that the bedroom had been rigged so that it could be opened only from the inside with his fingerprint scan. Ms. Popal fled Afghanistan in 2012 and obtained asylum in Denmark but has remained active with the national team, organising training camps abroad.
The head coach of the Afghan women’s team, Kelly Lindsey of the United States, expressed support for Ms. Popal and the players who have made the accusations. “Our Women have endured horrific Mental, Physical, and Sexual Abuse to play the sport they love for the country they love!” she wrote on Twitter.
FIFA have also been investigating the claims since March, “The matter is currently being addressed in a ‘do no harm way’ towards the victims, with reputable entities with which Fifa has formed a strong working relationship on human rights related issues in recent years”. The scandal has consequently affected the team's sponsorship deal with Hummel – the Danish sportswear company has retracted the sponsoring of the Afghan Football Federation following the allegations.
In Afghanistan, women's football is a place for only liberal and strong women who have challenged hard-liners and militants by daring to take the field in the first place. Unfortunately, a sex scandal has overshadowed the movement for women’s rights in the country and regrettably is an issue that extends across other sports too.