Venezuelan footballers accuse former coach of sexual misconduct

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CARACAS (AP) – Two dozen players from Venezuela’s national women’s soccer teams have accused a former coach of sexual harassment and abuse.

The players signed a letter making allegations against Kenneth Zseremeta, who led the women’s national teams at various levels in Venezuela for nine years until he was sacked in 2017.

Atletico Madrid star Deyna Castellanos signed and posted the joint letter on her social media and made a personal statement about a scandal that rocked the United States National Women’s Football League last week .

The 24 Venezuelan players said they “decided to break the silence to avoid situations of abuse and harassment, physical, psychological and sexual”.

The letter said a player revealed last year that she had been sexually assaulted by the coach since she was 14. The letter did not identify the footballer.

The letter from the players said Zseremeta repeatedly questioned them about their sexuality and sexual orientation, adding that there had been cases of “physical and psychological abuse during training sessions.”

Other alleged forms of “frequent harassment” included phone calls with inappropriate hospitality, massages and gifts.

“Today, we understand that these actions were intended to manipulate us and make us feel guilty. Gamers in the LGBTI community were constantly questioned about their sexual orientation and harassment of heterosexuals (gamers) was constant, ”the letter said.

“There have been threats and manipulation to tell the parents of players their sexual orientation if they don’t obey or behave as expected.”

Zseremeta, who returned to Panama and continued to coach women’s teams, did not immediately respond to the allegations. The Venezuelan football federation did not comment.

Zsemereta took Venezuela to fourth place in the 2014 Under-17 World Cup. It was the first time that a Venezuelan national team, male or female, reached the semi-finals of an organized world tournament. by FIFA.

The Venezuelan soccer federation fired Zsemereta, who was then coach of the country’s national women’s under-20 team, days after several of its players complained of malnutrition during the country’s severe economic crisis.

His dismissal came after the team placed third in a five-team competition in Colombia at the end of 2017. Venezuela were the favorites to win the title despite the absence of Castellanos. The Venezuelan federation said at the time that the decision was due to poor results.

The allegations in Venezuela follow the scandal in the United States, where top women’s league games were called off over the weekend and the NWSL commissioner resigned amid allegations of sexual harassment and misconduct involving a longtime trainer.

Two former players have presented allegations of harassment, including sexual coercion, against North Carolina Courage coach Paul Riley.

Riley was immediately sacked by Courage, and FIFA and US Soccer opened investigations into why he was able to continue coaching even after players raised concerns with the league. Riley told The Athletic the allegations were “completely untrue”.

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