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British daily The Guardian revealed on Thursday that Patrick Assoumou Eyi, former Under-17 coach of Gabon, is suspected of having committed numerous sexual abuses against young players. The French journalist Romain Molina, at the origin of the revelations, details his investigation.
After more than two years of investigation in Gabonese football and the collection of dozens of testimonies, the British daily The Guardian delivered a chilling conclusion on Thursday, December 16: several hundred young players accuse their trainer of having sexually assaulted them.
According to the British media, Patrick Assoumou Eyi, nicknamed “Capello”, is accused of having “raped, trained and exploited” many boys, when he was Gabon’s under-17 coach, until 2017, and still today as technical director of the Ligue de l’Estuaire – the youth championships.
“The network dates back to the 1990s. This investigation shows that there were several hundred casualties for this man alone, who also provided other minor players to other personalities in Gabonese football.” explains Romain Molina, co-author of the survey, on France 24’s antenna (video at the top of the page).
“If you refuse: you are dismissed”
He was reportedly threatening the young players to exclude them from the squad if they did not accede to his favor.
“We make you understand that you have no choice and if you refuse: you are rejected. Patrick Assoumou Eyi, and others were going to demand from young people a ‘masturbation’, a ‘fellatio’ or a ‘sexual intercourse’ “, relates Romain Molina.
“He raped so many boys that he sometimes went to the countryside to find new ones. He took advantage of their poverty. […] It has been the reality of Gabonese football for decades, but no one can stop the system. There are too many predators … “says one of the witnesses.
“It is an open secret in Gabon”, indicates Romain Molina, who accuses the federation of having concealed the facts.
This is not the journalist’s first attempt. In recent years, he has revealed a scandal of sexual harassment in the Malian or Kenyan basketball world. Regarding French football, he pointed out in the New York Times the inappropriate attitude of an educational manager towards a 13-year-old child.
“All continents are affected. The problem is endemic [au sport] and federations have turned a blind eye for decades. It is the biggest taboo in world sport “, denounces the journalist.
Patrick Assoumou Eyi suspended
Shortly after the publication of the investigation and the interview on France 24, Gabonese sports minister Franck Nguema announced that the government asked the courts to open an investigation, calling the case “very serious”.
“Patrick Assoumou Eyi (…) allegedly abused hundreds of young boys in the course of his duties,” the minister told the press.
President of the Republic Ali Bongo Ondimba, for whom “the case is very serious and unacceptable” instructed him “to seize the Minister of Justice for the opening of a judicial investigation in the national football community for sexual abuse having been committed against children, boys and girls “, but also” to extend the investigation to all national sports federations “to” eradicate potential sexual predators “.
“The alleged victims who confided in the Guardian are said to have said that they did not contact the police because they do not trust the Gabonese justice system,” continued Franck Nguema.
Statement by the Gabonese Minister of Sports.
Note that even the President of the Republic intervenes publicly.
That said, Patrick Assoumou Eyi should not be used as a scapegoat. It is the tree that hides the forest of a vast network in Gabonese football
Keep the faith ! pic.twitter.com/Vlu6hSV85j
– Romain Molina (@Romain_Molina) December 17, 2021
The Gabonese Football Federation (Fégafoot) on Friday suspended the coach from these functions on a provisional basis and seized the Ethics Commission of the National Football League to conduct an investigation, assured AFP Pablo Moussodji Ngoma, the official. Fégafoot media.