Fifpro, the global players’ union, has called for football stakeholders to introduce “stronger protocols” and to “fix the gaps… related to sexual abuse and harrassment” after the former president of the Afghanistan Football Federation lost his appeal against his lifetime ban.
Keramuddin Karim was banned for life and fined 1 million Swiss francs by the Fifa ethics committee for breaching its code when players came forward to expose the sexual, physical and emotional abuse of members of the Afghanistan Women’s team.
The court of arbitration for sport (Cas) on Tuesday dismissed Karim’s appeal, saying in a statement that they “confirmed the decision taken by the adjudicatory chamber of the Fifa ethics committee on 8 June 2019, in which Keramuudin Karim was found to have breached article 23 (protection of physical and mental integrity) and article 25 (abuse of position) of the Fifa code of ethics and sanctioned him with a life ban from all football-related activities (administrative, sports or any other) at both national and international level.
“The panel in charge of this matter underlined that, unlike bribery and match-fixing which damage the integrity of the sport, the offences committed by Keramuudin Karim violated basic human rights and damaged the mental and physical dignity and integrity of young female players.
"With his appalling acts, he had destroyed not only their careers, but severely damaged their lives. The panel determined that Keramuudin Karim should get the most severe sanction available.”
Now Fifpro have demanded a “systemic review” of existing sexual harassment and abuse protocols - including interviews with teams and experts with first-hand experience of those issues - to prevent further instances of abuse in international football. Afghanistan players testified to Cas from a secured place, using a voice scrambler to protect their identities.
“These players had already been through a harrowing journey to bring the federation president to justice,” Fifpro said in its statement. “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, added: “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.”
Physical, mental and sexual abuse in football can be reported using Fifa’s confidential whistleblower line. The world governing body has recently published a minimum package of care to support victims and said that they have adopted survivor-centred case management when investigating abuse allegations.