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FIFA extends investigation of underage sexual abuse in Gabon

ZURICH (AP) – FIFA extended an investigation into alleged systematic sexual abuse of underage players in Gabon by spreading suspensions to four soccer officials on Tuesday.

FIFA said its ethics committee opened formal proceedings against Patrick Assoumou Eyi, league official Serge Mombo and coaches Triphel Mabicka and Orphée Mickala. Eyi is a former national under-17 team coach who is accused of raping boys.

The investigation was opened after British daily The Guardian in December reported statements by alleged victims. They said they were lured to Eyi’s home which he called the “Garden of Eden”.

Eyi was suspended by the Gabonese Football Association in December and FIFA has extended that ban worldwide and provisionally to the other three officials. “These sanctions have been imposed in connection with ongoing criminal investigations,” FIFA said in a statement.

FIFA ethics investigators received a complaint from the global players union FIFPRO, which has said abuse of underage boys in Gabon was “deeply embedded” in football there and was “an open secret that was not addressed for years”.

The union also alleged people “with close ties” to the Gabonese FA made threats to players and witnesses during the investigation.

Gabon is the latest country investigated for systematic sexual abuse within its soccer federation. FIFA ethics judges previously banned officials in Afghanistan and Haiti.

The FIFA (International Federation of Association Football) logo outside the organisztion’s headquarters in Zurich. PHOTO: AFP