(Reuters) – The former president of the Afghanistan Football Federation (AFF) has been banned from football for life after FIFA’s ethics committee found him guilty of abusing his position and sexually abusing female players, the global soccer body said on Saturday.
Keramuddin Keram, also a former FIFA Standing Committee member, was accused by at least five Afghan female football players of repeated sexual abuse between 2013-18, FIFA said in a statement.
He was also fined 1,000,000 Swiss francs ($1.01 million).
The AFF could not immediately be reached for comment. It has previously rejected the allegations as “groundless”.
Afghanistan President Ashraf Ghani ordered an investigation after Britain’s Guardian newspaper reported in November that senior figures linked to the Afghan women’s team had alleged that some players had been molested by officials from the federation.
According to the Guardian, the alleged abuse took place inside the federation’s headquarters in Afghanistan as well as at a training camp in Jordan last February.
FIFA, which began its investigation in December when it suspended Keram, said he had breached ethics code rules on protection of physical and mental integrity and abuse of position.
The ban applies to any kind of football-related activity.
The national women’s team was formed in 2010. Some conservative-minded Afghans oppose women playing sports.
The allegations left the women’s team in tatters and prompted a loss of sponsorship.
In March, an Afghan federation official said friendly matches scheduled for outside Afghanistan had been cancelled because so many players had stopped training since the allegations emerged.
Many parents, alarmed by public treatment of female players, urged their daughters to give up soccer.
Afghanistan is ranked as one of the most dangerous countries for women and allegations of sexual contact outside marriage can have deadly consequences.
Victims of sexual harassment are often extremely reluctant to come forward for fear that they will be accused of adultery.
Dubai-based Alokozay Group, a company with a ubiquitous presence in Kabul selling soft drinks, tissues and tea, pulled its $850,000 annual contribution to the federation in February, following Danish sports brand Hummel, which cancelled its sponsorship in late November.
Alokozay blamed an administrative vacuum resulting from the allegations and Hummel cut ties with the AFF, citing its “unacceptable behaviour”.
(Reporting by Peter Hall and Brian Homewood; editing by Clare Fallon)