Fifa has confirmed that its independent ethics committee has opened an investigation into allegations of widespread sexual abuse in Gabonese football.
The former coach of Gabon’s Under-17 coach is facing charges of raping minors and sexual assault along with two other coaches after accusations by alleged victims were reported by the Guardian. Patrick Assoumou Eyi – known as “Capello” – faces up to 30 years in prison if found guilty of charges that could also include attempted rape on minors and endangering the life of another.
Serge Mombo, a leading football official in Gabon, has also been accused of sexually abusing young players and demanding sex as a condition of them securing places in national teams. Mombo was re-elected as president of La Ligue de l’Estuaire, Gabon’s senior football league, in June 2021. He is also set to serve as the kit man for Gabon’s senior men’s team at the African Cup of Nations in Cameroon. Mombo, a former policeman, denied the abuse claims, made by alleged victims and witnesses to the Guardian.
“Given the seriousness of the allegations being made, we can confirm that Fifa’s independent ethics committee has opened an investigation and is currently looking into the matter,” said a Fifa spokesman. “Please understand that no further comment can be made at this stage.”
A former player who claimed he was abused by both Eyi and Mombo when he represented Gabon’s Under-17s in 2017 said the official attempted to proposition him with promises of a place in the starting lineup. On Friday, Mombo – who has also served as a referee – described the allegations made against him as “unethical”.
“I wanted to laugh about it but the facts are too serious to pass up,” he wrote on Facebook. “I feel touched in my self-esteem and the perpetrators of this plot will answer for their actions. The archives are there to show that this action to destabilize the same authors does not date from today. I was an international referee, now President of the League, I have never been at the centre of these dirty works which I condemn with the utmost energy.”
He added: “It’s unethical to smear people for a job. The position of kitman in the national team is not contractual, it is a one-off.”
Gabon are due to face Comoros in their first match at Afcon on Monday evening.