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Football, paedophilia go hand in hand in Gabon, victims open up


Football, paedophilia go hand in hand in Gabon, victims open up

Football’s governing bodies in Gabon are facing accusations of failing to protect young victims of sexual abuse.

According to the BBC Africa Eye, over 30 witnesses reported a network of sexual abuse in all levels of the game for 30 years.

Victims claimed they were assaulted at youth training camps and threatened not to speak about it.

Despite reports of abuse over the years, it was not until December 2021 when the UK’s Guardian newspaper published an article about the issue that four coaches were arrested.

One of the charged, Patrick Assoumou Eyi, head coach of Gabon’s national youth teams, admitted to the charges of raping, grooming, and exploiting young players.

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The victims of the abuse, many of whom were minors at the time, have alleged that they were sexually assaulted by coaches and officials across all levels of football, including at youth training camps where they were pursuing their dreams of becoming professional footballers.

The allegations of sexual assault also include threats and intimidation of the victims by the perpetrators, who warned them against speaking out about the abuse.

The victims have stated that their complaints were ignored by footballing authorities in Gabon, and that the culture of silence around sexual abuse in the sport allowed it to continue for decades.

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One of the victims, who wished to remain anonymous, explained his ordeal, “I was only 14 years old when it happened. I was far from my family and friends in a training camp, and I trusted the coach. But he betrayed my trust and assaulted me. I felt alone and helpless, and I didn’t know who to turn to.”

Another victim, who also wished to remain anonymous, said, “I’m speaking out because I don’t want anyone else to go through what I went through. I want the football authorities to take action and protect young players from predators who use football as an opportunity to prey on vulnerable children.”

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Amnesty International has called for all Gabonese institutions to never again fail to respond to sexual abuse complaints or cover-up such allegations.

“The abuse of children in football is a global problem that requires a global solution. Football associations must take their responsibilities seriously and put in place robust safeguards to protect young players from abuse and exploitation.”