National football coach accused of ‘raping so many boys’

Union bosses have warned that football is rife with grooming, assault and “horrific abuse” after disturbing accusations of repeated rape emerged against a long-serving coach and former Gabon national youth team boss.

Patrick Assoumou Eyi, who is said to be known locally as ‘Capello’, allegedly abused boys while leading Gabon’s under-17 team and serving in his current role as the country’s top-flight technical director. 

He is accused of luring them to his home, which he dubbed the ‘Garden of Eden’. Some victims have reportedly claimed that boys were provided for other leading figures in Gabonese football to abuse. 

The alleged victims say they have not contacted police because they lack faith in the justice system, according to the Guardian.

But Fifa’s international players’ union, Fifpro, has received a complaint and said that its preliminary inquiries unearthed “consistent evidence from credible witnesses” who unanimously say young players have long been forced into sexual relationships as a “pre-condition for footballing opportunities”.

“If these allegations are indeed true, it is yet further evidence that football is being consistently exploited, across leagues and continents, as a forum for abusers to access, groom, extort and assault players,” the union added.

“More must be done to prevent this horrific abuse and we call on football’s governing bodies to act as a matter of urgency.”

Eyi stepped down from working with the under-17s squad in 2017 but the outlet said that he continues to work with young people at the La Ligue de l’Estuaire despite a former official in Gabon’s football federation, Fegafoot, reportedly claiming that he attempted to raise concerns of sexual abuse allegations at a 2019 board meeting which were brushed off.

The official is said to have been fired as a result, though Fegafoot denied that claim to the newspaper.

“He forced me to have sexual relations with him,” one player who represented the under-17s side from 2015 to 2017 was quoted as saying. “That was the condition to stay in the national team.

“At the time, I left my village in order to help my family. I was living in the capital [Libreville] and becoming a professional footballer was the only way to get out of misery. So I did what I had to do to help them.”

“Capello raped so many boys,” the player was quoted as alleging. “He sometimes went to the countryside to find new ones.

“He took advantage of poverty and also gave some boys to other officials. In our national team, the majority had to give sex.

“That’s the reality of Gabonese football for decades but no-one can shut down the system. Predators are too numerous… we suffered hell.”

Two other alleged victims say Eyi abused them when they were under 18 while they attended an academy in a Libreville suburb between 2017 and 2019.

“Sometimes, he took some kids to his house, ‘Le Jardin d’Eden’,” one is said to have explained. “He was very nice to me but every time I saw him he told me I was beautiful.

“One day, he told me that some of the players gave masturbation… he left his office with a smile. It was like he was sending me a message.”

“I had some sexual experiences with Capello, I was obligated to,” the other player is quoted as saying.

“I quit football, you know. I tried my best for my family and now I live out of the country. I can’t go back.

“Capello bought kids from remote provinces or villages with a poor background in the majority.

“He brainwashed them and made them believe they had to give sexual favours to him. One other coach told us one day: ‘If you want to play with the under-17 national team, you know what you have to do.’”

Eyi, who was a winger but went into coaching at a young age with a noted eye for spotting footballing talent, is said to have posted a series of messages on his WhatsApp statuses where he seemed to make reference to the allegations and wrote: “Those who use lies as a weapon don’t know the reverse on the spiritual side.”

Fegafoot’s media officer, Pablo Moussodji Ngoma, was quoted by the Guardian to have referenced the allegations on Facebook, criticizing them for a “weakness of evidence”.

“The testimonies of the actor victims, with their names, can dissuade the perpetrators of these abominable acts but we must also allow the judicial bodies and even the courts to punish them,” he reportedly wrote.

“The rest will be taken as one more communication operation for those who are committed to tarnishing Gabon’s image internationally.”

In a reported statement, Fegafoot said it had “never registered any complaints relating to any act of this nature”.

“To our knowledge, [Eyi] does not have a team and is not appointed to lead any national team,” it is said to have added.

“The players you have met should consider also contacting us in order to diligently investigate because we confirm that such facts must be denounced in court and to the competent judicial bodies.”

This scandal is just the latest to rock Gabonese football, which in November saw ex-Rennes star Stephane Nguema and four fellow ex-internationals arrested for protesting against continued cancelations of the domestic leagues.

As a consequence, Nguema has had to leave his role as the players’ union secretary-general, with members claiming they haven’t been paid in almost two years.

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