(The Guardian )Fifa will request more details about the appointment of a coach accused of sexually abusing and harassing female players in Barbados after it was suggested that he was given “positive recommendations” to take over as director of football in St Kitts and Nevis by the president of the Barbados Football Association.
Ahmed Mohamed, a former Somalia defender who has managed Barbados and the US Virgin Islands, was appointed by Atiba Harris – the president of the SKNFA – in September.
According to Harris, Mohamed stepped down as technical director of the BFA last year for “family reasons” and was chosen after Harris “reached out personally” to the BFA president, Randy Harris, who is the president of the Caribbean Football Union (CFU) and a vice-president of Concacaf.
Mohamed left his post in Barbados in February 2021 after 27 players from the senior women’s team signed a letter at the start of that month urging the BFA to investigate claims made by one of their teammates.
It understood that she alleged the coach raped her at a hotel when she was 18 and that she previously received a series of unwelcome text messages from him. The player also claimed that she was threatened by senior members of the BFA after attempting to report her clams to the police. Another player alleged that Mohamed sexually abused her over a period of three years, starting when she was 13.
Last February some players also started an online petition demanding a “thorough investigation be carried out immediately”, after no immediate action was taken. “We didn’t put his name because we were afraid,” said one player who did not want to be named. “In our country, it’s hard for someone to claim that kind of thing, especially in sports.”
Mohamed left his post three weeks later, although his identity was not made public by the BFA after Randy Harris said he had been “legally advised not to”. Harris, re-elected unopposed as president of the CFU last year, refused to say whether Mohamed had resigned or been sacked.
“We have policies in place to make clear that we will not accept any form of misconduct or inappropriate behaviour,” he said in a statement. “We will always act in the best interests of our organisation and of football in Barbados.”
Randy Harris, asked whether he would like to comment about the claim he recommended Mohamed, replied: “No sir.” Neither Atiba Harris nor Mohamed responded to questions from the Guardian.
Dave Browne – the father of the St Kitts captain Phoenetia, who plays for the German second division club SC Sand – said during a phone-in show on Freedom FM last week that he was “deeply concerned” about the situation. “He has been accused of sexually abusing girls – we can’t take that lightly,” Browne said. “As a father of one of the players, I’m very concerned from all angles that the girls could be in danger. Atiba Harris needs to come and tell us why he has appointed him. He owes it to the nation.”
Harris appeared as a guest on Freedom FM on Monday to defend the appointment. “We did our due diligence regarding Mr Mohamed,” he said. “I reached out personally to the president of CFU [Randy Harris], who is also the vice-president of Concacaf, and also other officials within Concacaf and Fifa. We had positive feedback, positive recommendations and we decided to move forward. Those allegations that were made by the gentleman that called in – would the immigration in St Kitts and Nevis let somebody into the country, award them a work permit in such a high position, knowing that something like that was on their back? You tell me.”
Harris added: “[Mohamed] actually resigned for family reasons. Ahmed is a great guy, a great technical person who is going to do wonders for our country within football. I have every confidence in him.”
A spokesperson from Concacaf said: “At no point has anyone from the St Kitts and Nevis FA contacted the Concacaf administration to seek information regarding this individual, or any other prospective employee.”
A Fifa spokesperson said: “Given the seriousness of the allegations, Fifa will contact the relevant member associations to request more details about this matter. When it comes to misconduct and abuse in football, we wish to reiterate that Fifa takes any allegations reported to it very seriously.”
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Atiba Harris, a former defender who retired last year, said that restructuring the SKNFA had been his priority since he was elected in August. “I came back here to St Kitts after finishing my career professionally to contribute back to football and society,” he said. “We selected a team around us and you know you’re going to have some good ones and not so good ones. Yes there are going to be some changes – some people are going to take it the wrong way but changes need to be made to move forward.”
In November Jeffrey “Pedro” Hazel’s contract as technical director of the SKNFA was terminated with immediate effect, along with those of three other senior officials. It is understood that Hazel, who guided two of the country’s women’s sides to the final stages of Concacaf qualifying for the first time last year and had a year left on his contract, has launched a legal action.
This article was amended on 7 February 2022. Ahmed Mohamed previously managed the US Virgin Islands, not the British Virgin Islands as an earlier version incorrectly said.
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