FIFA President Gianni Infantino has strongly rejected criticism of the governing body’s handling of the sexual abuse scandal in Afghanistan football from the coach of the women’s team.
Keramuddin Karim was last month banned for life from football by FIFA for repeated sexual abuse of female players while President of the Afghanistan Football Federation.
But national coach Kelly Lindsey is angry that only Karim has been punished.
Karim and five others temporarily left their positions with the national body after the Afghanistan Attorney General's office launched an investigation into the accusations, first published in British newspaper The Guardian.
“They didn’t investigate anyone but the President,” Lindsey told AP.
“They didn’t go any deeper than the top layer.”
For that, according to Lindsey, the blame goes to Infantino.
“I’m disgusted with him as a human being, as a leader of our sport,” she said.
“He should not be President of FIFA, in my mind.”
Speaking at a press conference, Infantino responded: “I don’t know why this person has criticised.
“Sexual abuse... it’s something we take very, very seriously.
“When FIFA was informed about the situation in Afghanistan, we acted immediately.
“The first thing we did was not to make a PR exercise about how we react.
“We thought of the interests of these girls and their families and their safety.”
Infantino added that the investigation, which began in December, was ongoing and that FIFA was working with United Nations agencies to help the victims, many of whom have been resettled in new countries.
The Swiss-Italian, who was re-elected unopposed as FIFA President last month, said the political situation in the Gulf nation made it a much more delicate case to handle.
“I prefer much more to be active and help one person concretely rather than having 10 headlines saying ‘FIFA President, look how good he is’,” Infantino added.
“But we helped.
“And I hope these persons who have committed these horrible crimes will be held accountable to justice.”
The exchange of views has come in the wake of a campaign petition being launched by AFDP Global, the international football social enterprise, which has launched a #FearlessFootball petition calling on football’s governing bodies to take a zero-tolerance approach to the maltreatment of women and girls.
More than 75 leading figures in football and human rights – including Lindsey – have already signed the #FearlessFootball petition.
Signatories include HRH Prince Ali Bin Al Hussein of Jordan, former England internationals Eniola Aluko, Kelly Smith and Rachel Yankey, Shabnam Mobarez, captain of the Afghanistan women's national team, former Liverpool players and England internationals Jamie Carragher and Robbie Fowler, former French internationals Mathieu Flamini, Robert Pires and Louis Saha, Kohzo Tashima, President of the Japan Football Association, and Rob Williams, chief executive of War Child.
AFDP Global Founder, HRH Prince Ali Bin Al-Hussein of Jordan, said: “This campaign follows AFDP Global’s roundtable event held earlier this year to discuss the continued and serious concerns for the Afghanistan women’s football team.
“Since the roundtable, I have continued to be a vocal defender of the affected players and their families.
“The lifetime ban and fine issued by FIFA on June 8, 2019 against the President of the Afghanistan Football Federation is a first step.
“However, much more needs to be done to address widespread, systemic abuse and harassment in women’s football.
“Everyone who cares deeply about the integrity and standing of the women’s game needs to work together.
“The era in world football governance which has allowed coaches, staff and officials to misuse their power in the treatment of women and girls must end now.
“The launch of the #FearlessFootball campaign is a landmark moment for the integrity of the game, as we look forward to a brighter future where every girl and woman can play football in safety and with dignity.”