We commend the Afghanistan Women’s National Team players for their bravery and commitment in seeking justice by again giving evidence against their attacker, this time to the Court of Arbitration for Sport.
These players had already been through a harrowing journey to bring the federation president to justice. Their selflessness to take a stand and bring awareness to the rights of women to play football, and to the pervasive issues of gender discrimination and sexual abuse in sport, will help future generations of footballers and other athletes.
On behalf of them and other players around the world, and in light of other cases of abuse in international football, we urgently call for the introduction of stronger protocols by football stakeholders.
This requires a systemic review to identify and fix the gaps in existing protocols, process and remedy related to sexual abuse and harassment. This review must involve consultation with players, coaches, and experts who have dealt with these issues themselves.
Khalida Popal, former player and general manager of the Afghanistan Women’s National Team said, “This has been a traumatic time for me and my teammates but we are satisfied that we have achieved justice.
“We hope that this case is a turning point and football introduces measures to shield players from harm, and provide care for them if they’ve become the victim of abuse. Players desperately need and deserve this.”
FIFPRO General Secretary Jonas Baer-Hoffmann said, “Football is often seen as a tool for tackling social issues. Sadly, this case has shown us that, in the wrong hands, football can be used as a tool for abuse and violence.
“Our heart goes out to these players because of what they had to go through. At the same time, we are inspired by their drive for justice and commitment to create change. This case has exposed the tremendous amount of work needed to make sure the safety and well-being of vulnerable people is a central principal in football.
“At FIFPRO we are assisting a growing number of individuals who have suffered sexual abuse and harassment. Sport must urgently implement means to prevent these crimes, protects victims and provide access to justice.”