Fifa and Asian football’s governing body were made aware of sexual abuse allegations against senior football officials and a coach more than two years ago, according to emails seen by the Guardian.
The Asian Football Confederation said late last year, after of sexual and physical abuse, that it had received no complaints of abuse.
Last November a Fifa source said that it began investigating claims of sexual abuse when it was told of the allegations in March 2018. The Guardian has been shown emails which suggest senior officials within and the AFC were informed in April 2017 of possible abuse of players within the Afghan federation.
No action was apparently taken by either organisation and it is unclear whether the accusations in the emails reached the staff who, when approached by players in March 2018, instigated the investigation.
A formal complaint alleging abuse of girls was emailed on 19 April 2017 to three sets of people: members of world football’s governing body, including the general secretary’s office; members of the AFC, including the official integrity-reporting email account; and the Afghan federation.
In a separate case seven months later, Fifa, the Afghan federation and the AFC received a letter which accused the president of the federation, Keramuudin Karim, of failing to take action against, and then appointing as a club manager, Habib Charjeba, a coach accused of the sexual assault of a 14-year-old-boy. Charjeba is still a coach. No action was taken by the AFC or Fifa.
Karim has been since December 2018 following allegations that he Afghanistan women’s national team players. The claims are being investigated by Fifa and the attorney general’s office in Afghanistan. Fifa said it expected to make a final judgment in the next few weeks. Karim has .
The general secretary of the Afghan federation, Sayed Ali Reza Aghazada, has also been suspended in relation to the allegations, together with the goalkeeping coach Abdul Saboor Walizada, the provincial team liaison Nadir Alimi and the deputy president Yosuf Kargar. Aghazada has described all the allegations as “baseless”.
A Fifa spokeswoman, asked about the emails, said: “In early 2018 Fifa was made aware of sexual abuse allegations and immediately began to investigate these serious matters in a way that would ensure, first and foremost, the safety and security of the victims and their families.”
She added that Fifa was “strongly committed to promoting the safety and wellbeing of all individuals involved in football activities” and had “a zero-tolerance policy on human rights violations and condemns all forms of gender-based violence”.
The Guardian has been provided with evidence that Aghazada and Karim were involved in paying off five girls who launched a sexual harassment case in July/August 2017 against five other members of staff within the federation.
Four of the five accusers were officially under age according to Afghan penal law, aged 14, 14, 16 and 17, with the fifth aged 18. The case involved the girls being asked for sexual favours and to leave their families in return for promotion into the national team and was settled in September 2017, although it is not clear whether liability was admitted.
The AFF has not responded to the question of whether the men were disciplined as a result of the cases or allowed to continue in their roles.
Aghazada was elected unopposed to the AFC executive committee on 6 April despite being suspended and subject to a travel ban on the orders of the Afghanistan attorney general’s office.
Emails sent to Fifa, the AFC and Afghan federation in April 2017 also alleged corruption by Aghazada and Karim.
On 6 April 2017 four members of Fifa, including the general secretary’s office, together with the AFC and the AFF, received an email from 34 of the provincial football presidents in Afghanistan which – among other things – raised concerns over the impartiality of Aghazada, accused him of campaigning for Karim and accused Aghazada and Karim of removing provincial presidents who would not support the latter.
Later that month the emails alleging abuse of girls also referred to other accusations: of unpaid salaries of provincial presidents; the removal of provincial presidents by the general secretary in processes contrary to Fifa, AFC and AFF rules; misuse of funds; and use of federation funds for Karim’s own campaigning.
On 4 November 2017 members of the AFC, AFF and Fifa were informed via email that the salary of the president of the Jawzjan province had not been paid for a year because he had failed to support the AFF leadership.
Three days later members of the AFC, AFF and Fifa were informed via email that there had been no salary paid to the president of the Paktika province and that the AFF refused to recognise it as a federation of Afghanistan despite having 46 teams and some competing in the Afghan Premier League.
The AFF did not respond to requests for comment.
A Fifa spokeswoman said: “Alleged representatives of the Afghan provincial associations sent emails to various staff in Fifa which made allegations which proved difficult to verify for two reasons: 1. The attachments/enclosures mentioned in the emails were never provided and 2. Fifa staff could not travel to Afghanistan for a fact-finding mission due to the serious security constraints within the country.”
The AFC said: “All candidates for the AFC elections were subjected to eligibility checks and all passed. Issues with the Afghanistan Football Federation should be addressed to them. The matter surrounding the allegations against certain members of the AFF is being addressed by Fifa.”