A leading sportswear company has canceled its sponsorship deals with the Afghan Football Federation (AFF) over allegations that male AFF staff abused female players.
Danish sportwear brand Hummel also called for the immediate resignation of the president of the organization, Keramuddin Karim.Visit CNN.com/sport for more news and videos
- In a statement issued to CNN, the company said it “was presented with strong allegations of severe mental, physical, sexual and equal rights abuse of the female players by male AFF officials.”The sportswear brand demanded the resignation of Karim, saying in its statement it had “clear documentation of breach of contract as well as the fact that AFF leadership has been aware of the allegations since February this year without taking actions or informing sponsors.”Read MoreCNN has been unable to reach Karim for comment.The AFF said it “vigorously rejects” the allegations and said it had a “zero tolerance approach” to abuse. It said the allegations were being driven by “former employees.”Hummel’s CEO Allan Vad Nielsen said in the statement that it had concluded the allegations were serious enough to cut its ties. “The documentation presented to us is not only an indication of gross misconduct and abuse of power by the AFF officials, it is in direct contrast to our values.” Death threats and football: How Khalida Popal escaped the Taliban”We have no other choice but to cancel the sponsorship. Hummel will not support an organization where the safety and rights of the players isn’t the first priority,” Vad Nielsen said.Khalida Popal, a former Afghan player and currently the program organizer for the women’s national team, told CNN the abuse took place during a seven-day training camp in Jordan at the end of January this year.Popal, who was forced to flee Afghanistan and now lives in Denmark, was present at the Jordan training camp. She says that at least five players were abused in their rooms by two male officials, who had been sent by the AFF to accompany the players.. The players are not yet willing to speak to the media publicly, fearing for their safety and that of their families, she said.Popal said the two men particularly targeted members of the team who had come from Afghanistan, rather than those who lived abroad.The officials would invite the players to their rooms, and when they declined, the officials went to the women’s accommodation, she said.When Popal confronted the officials about why they were in the players’ rooms so late, the men said they were just “playing games,” she said.Some of the women, Popal said, came to her in tears, while another had a bruise on her neck.The abuse continued at training, Popal said. She SAID SHE heard one of the men say to the other, “what a great ass,” as he looked at one of the players.”I, as the leader of the program, tried many times to address these issues,” Popal told CNN. “My argument with the football association was to not involve men, we don’t want men to be involved in our program.””Families were trusting us with their daughters.”In its statement, the AFF said it was “aware of the difficult environment for women’s sport in Afghanistan,” and did its best to support female athletes. “The AFF is disappointed that these very serious allegations seem to come from former employees, without ever having directly contacted the AFF and/or provided any specific information to help the AFF to investigate these allegations. As such, the AFF can only reiterate that these allegations are completely groundless.””Should the AFF receive specific factual information and/evidence, it will not hesitate to initiate further investigations immediately and to take all appropriate steps to prevent such actions and prosecute those responsible for them.”Compounding the picture is a new contract issued by the AFF. The Afghan players revealed on social media last week that they had been asked to sign a “draconian” agreement which would strip the female players of a number of rights.The contract sought to prevent them from talking to the press, deny them from being paid for performing national team duties, stop them from earning money through sponsorships and deny them mediation in disciplinary hearings.Popal and Haley Carter, the assistant coach of the Afghan women’s team, say the contract was an attempt to silence the players.
Be proud of who you are and always stand for what’s right⚽️🇦🇫 pic.twitter.com/CaRMnOAFrS
— Shabnam Mobarez (@shabnammobarez) November 19, 2018
“If it came out, it could really hurt the (Afghan football) program,” Popal told CNN. “They wanted to come out with this contract to silence our players in so many ways.”Carter, a former American professional footballer, called the contract “draconian in nature.””It was an outrageous contract,” Carter told CNN. “When I read it my mouth just dropped to the floor, I’m entirely uncomfortable asking somebody to sign that.”A spokesperson for FIFA, world football’s governing body, said the organization “is looking into” the contractual dispute. CNN has asked Fifa to comment about the abuse claims.Shabnam Mobarez, the women’s team captain, who was dropped after refusing to sign the contract, told CNN: “This contract is just controlling me and trying to put me in a box, so I can’t move as a player and as a human.””The terms in the contract are restricting me from so many opportunities I can have as a player. “It’s something that has to be cleaned out from the whole system, so we are just being a voice for people who don’t have a voice.”
- Popal says she was promised by Karim that the two officials would be punished. But when they returned to Afghanistan from Jordan, she found out they had both received promotions.”This is the way you get our justice?” Popal told CNN. “By giving a promotion to the abuser.”