By Ajisafe Olayiwola
The Federation of International Football Association confirmed on Friday that it is investigating an allegation of misconduct in relation to the Zambian women’s national team in the ongoing Australia and New Zealand 2023 World Cup.
Coach Bruce Mwape was accused of rubbing his hands over the chest of one of his players, The Guardian reported Thursday.
The allegation came two days before the team’s final group game against Costa Rica.
A FIFA spokesperson said, “FIFA takes any allegation of misconduct extremely seriously and has a clear process in place for anyone in football who wants to report an incident.”
He stated further details can’t be given as investigation is going on, but he confirmed that the football body has received the complaint.
“We can confirm that a complaint has been received in relation to the Zambian women’s national team and this is currently being investigated. We cannot provide further details regarding an ongoing investigation for obvious confidentiality reasons,” he stated.
The spokesperson further said, “Anyone who wishes to report allegations or information related to abuse in football can do so via FIFA’s confidential reporting platform, with all information that is submitted to FIFA handled in the strictest of confidence.”
He also said FIFA takes “the strongest possible sanctions” when guilt is established.
The spokesperson also mentioned that the world football governing body provides support to witnesses.
“In addition, FIFA offers support and assistance to ensure the safety of those who report a safeguarding issue, including witnesses who come forward and give testimony in FIFA Ethics cases. Where guilt is established, FIFA takes the strongest possible sanctions, including removing people from the game for life. Our track record demonstrates this,” he assured.
The Football Association of Zambia announced last September that it had referred a report regarding allegations of sexual abuse within the women’s football team to FIFA.
According to a report by The Guardian, Mwape was among those being investigated.
Upon the publication of The Guardian’s article, which featured an anonymous player saying “if he [Mwape] wants to sleep with someone, you have to say yes,” the FAZ referred to the statement it made last September.
This year’s FIFA World Cup tournament is the first in which the Zambian women team ever participated.
The team beat Costa Rica to record the country’s first-ever victory at the finals, although they exited the tournament at the group stage after defeats to Japan and Spain.
Zambia’s win in their World Cup debut has been overshadowed by the allegations against Mwape, who has been in charge since 2018. The news conference prior to their game against Spain ended early due to persistent questions about a prior investigation relating to misconduct within women’s football in Zambia.
Captain Barbra Banda and Racheal Kundananji were both on target as they recorded a first-ever victory in what was the first World Cup appearance for any Zambian team, men or women.