BOGOTA – Representatives of the Colombian government, the country’s soccer federation and other sports organizations gathered on Monday to sign an accord to protect athletes – especially the youngest ones – in response to stories of discrimination, harassment and sexual misconduct in women’s soccer.
“What we have done is to create a pact for transparency and for the protection of boys and girls in sport,” Vice President Marta Lucia Ramirez said during a press conference in Bogota.
The agreement came after two former members of the national women’s soccer team spoke out about abuses ranging from the federation’s failure to financially support the squad to attempts by coaches and directors to extort bribes or sexual favors from players seeking inclusion on the side.
Separately, a female former trainer with the women’s U-17 team said that coach Didier Luna began harassing her after she rebuffed his romantic advances, while the father of a former U-17 player accused head trainer Sigifrido Alonso of trying to sexually molest her.
Luna has denied the allegations by the former trainer.
Ramirez said the government of President Ivan Duque actively supports Colombia’s bid to host the 2023 Women’s World Cup and that the initiative to protect female athletes and foster their development is part of the campaign.
The administration wants to see more women and girls get involved in sports and to strengthen women’s soccer in Colombia, she said.
“We have to treat any hint of discrimination or sexual harassment against our women or our children as a cancer that requires the strongest chemotherapy that exists,” the vice president said.
Duque is committed to devoting public resources to ensuring that Colombia continues to produce world champions across the range of sporting disciplines, she said, adding that protecting female competitors and minors from “abuse, harassment or discrimination” was a necessary corollary of financial support.
Duque plans to sign an executive order to enable background checks of people who work with underage athletes to ensure that they don’t have criminal records, according to the Colombian government.
Ramirez had harsh words last December for the president of men’s soccer club Deportes Tolima after he called the women’s professional league a “breeding ground of lesbianism.”
“It’s unacceptable to continue discrediting women and insinuating all of what this gentleman has said,” Ramirez said then.
Tolima club boss Gabriel Camargo, a former legislator, said that the female league was not economically viable and accused women footballers of drinking more alcohol than their male counterparts.
“It seems to me that Camargo has demonstrated truly a primitive attitude that today should be creating embarrassment for all Colombian men,” the vice president said.