End of Women’s World Cup marks the beginning of ‘Fearless Football’ campaign

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Florence Lloyd-Hughes details the Association Football Development Program’s new campaign to end abuse in women’s football. 

“He took a gun, his gun, put it on my head and said: ‘See what I have done to you? I can shoot you in the head and everywhere will be your brain. And I can do the same with your family. If you want your family to be alive you should keep quiet.’

These were the words of one victim from the Afghan women’s national team who spoke to the Guardian last year about abuse she had endured from the now former president of the Afghanistan Football Federation Keramuudin Karim.

Several players bravely stepped forward to share stories of abuse and as a result FIFA handed Karim a life ban and fined him 1,000,000 Swiss francs.

FIFA’s investigation into the abuse continues but the issue that these allegations highlighted is one that runs deeper than just Afghanistan.

This is what the Association Football Development Program is aiming to tackle with its Fearless Football campaign and petition.

In the final week of the World Cup, AFDP Global launched Fearless Football in Lyon in front of an influential group of international journalists, coaches, players and football figures.

Prince Ali of Jordan, the former Fifa presidential candidate and the founder of AFDP Global, spoke about the inspiration for the campaign at its launch: “We are at a crossroads. While the World Cup has shown us so much that is good and inspiring we cannot ignore the fact that abuse, harassment and exploitation continue to undermine the integrity and standing of the women’s game.”

Prince Ali and his colleagues intend to a send a message to individuals and organisations in football that the abuse of women and girls will not be tolerated.

The Fearless Football petition, which petition can be accessed and signed on Change.org, has already received support from a host of high-profile individuals from across football including Robert Pires, Emma Hayes, Rachel Yankey, Harry Kewell and Aleksander Ceferin, the president of UEFA.

AFDP Global has laid out a Declaration of Principles which it believes “must be at the centrepiece of football culture”. These principles are:

  1. Safeguarding codes and educational programs must be instituted
  2. Whistleblowing and reporting mechanisms must be implemented
  3. Enforcement policies must be upheld
  4. Affected individuals must receive appropriate support

A central voice to this campaign is Kelly Lindsey, the head coach of the Afghanistan women’s team who has been helping her players whistle blow to the authorities and share their stories with journalists.

Lindsey was visibly emotional at the Fearless Football launch but that didn’t stop her from leaving some parting words for those in power: “If we don’t stand up and have a voice we’re allowing these abusers that destroy to the game that we believe has so much to give the world.

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“The world needs to know the truth and we’re not the only country going through this. Every governing body, every president, every leader in football from grassroots to elite needs to stand up and say, ‘this is not acceptable anymore’.

“I want to make sure we make this happen, systematic change to protect every young girl and woman and ensure that football is the most passionate and positive place for all of us to exist.”

Follow Florence on Twitter @floydtweet

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