LIBREVILLE. – The allegations of sexual abuse in the central African country of Gabon date as far back as the early 1990s.
One victim, who wanted to remain anonymous, described what happened to him as a teenager at an Under-17 football camp.
He said he and his best friend were woken up in the middle of the night and taken to a room with red lights, full of naked men.
“They started touching me and my friend and I just didn’t understand. I started to pray. I wanted to get out, but the door was locked. They grabbed me and threw me on to the floor. There were two security men. It was like they were prepared,” he said.
“I saw how they started to rape my friend. I looked him in the eye, and he looked back at me as if to say: ‘Let’s just go along with them and get it over with.’ I cried and screamed and screamed and screamed.
“They told me I would never be selected to play ever again and that if I dared speak to anyone about what happened, my family would be killed.”
He never played for Gabon again.
It was not until the UK’s Guardian newspaper reported the abuse in December 2021, that four coaches were arrested. Three of them remain in prison.
At the heart of the most damaging allegations was Patrick Assoumou Eyi, widely known as “Capello”.
For decades, he was the head coach of Gabon’s national youth teams.
“He basically held the position of a god because everyone idolised him. Those in charge of training centres, the academies,” said Ndong.
In December 2021, FIFA’s independent ethics committee began preliminary investigation proceedings into reports of sexual abuse allegedly committed by Capello, and suspended him from all football-related activities.
Another footballer, who we will call Julien, told the BBC that he too was abused from the age of 14.
He played for Gabon’s national team for several years and believes the number of boys affected is hard to fathom.
“I don’t know how many coaches were abusing boys, but for a moment let’s look at Capello alone. He is the most well-known and he has been doing this for the last 25 or 30 years. Every year he has had access to at least 50 boys, if not more,” he said.
“Now let’s consider how many others were part of that network. We are talking about thousands of boys.” – BBC.