Venezuela Women’s Soccer Players Allege Abuse

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Tahicelis Marcano of Venezuela tries to tackle Kiana Palacios of Mexico during the FIFA U-20 Women's World Cup, Group D match between Venezuela and Mexico at Bava Park on November 21, 2016 in Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea. (Photo by Ian Walton - FIFA/FIFA via Getty Images)

CARACAS, Venezuela, Fri. Oct. 8, 2021 (Reuters) – Two dozen Venezuelan women’s soccer players say in an open letter that many players had suffered years of sexual abuse and harassment by a former coach of the national team, Kenneth Zseremeta.

In the letter posted to Twitter by Deyna Castellanos – a player on the national team and Atletico de Madrid in Spain – the players asked World soccer governing body FIFA, as well as other soccer organizations and leagues to not allow Zseremeta, who is of Panamanian nationality, to continue working in women’s soccer.

The letter said one unnamed player said she was abused by Zseremeta in 2014 when she was 14 years old.

“Many of us still have trauma and mental wounds that accompany us in our daily lives,” the players wrote.

Zseremeta did not respond to a request for comment sent via Facebook message.

Venezuela’s chief prosecutor Tarek Saab said in a late Tuesday tweet that he had assigned a prosecutor to open a criminal investigation into Zseremeta.

The Venezuelan Soccer Federation (FVF) said it supported the players.

“We are committed to ensure respect for women in this sport,” the FVF tweeted late Tuesday. “As a federation, we support women today and at all times.”

The allegation by the players comes several months after several women accused a prominent Venezuelan writer, Willy McKee, of sexual misconduct. McKee in April confessed on Instagram to committing statutory rape and was later found dead after falling nine stories from a building.

(Reporting by Deisy Buitrago Writing by Luc Cohen Editing by Marguerita Choy)