All India Football Federation (AIFF) executive committee member, Anjali Shah believes the most important and urgent thing is to make football a safe space for its women players, especially girls, following the sacking of the women’s Under-17 side assistant coach, Alex Ambrose due to “sexual misconduct”.
Dr. SY Quraishi who is a member of the Supreme Court-appointed Committee of Administrators (CoA) which is running the AIFF on an interim basis confirmed the sacking of Ambrose on the social networking site, Twitter on Sunday.
Shah for her part revealed that she was horrified at what took place, claiming that “the girls are in such a vulnerable position, they’re willing to do anything to be in the coach’s good books”.
“What should I say, it’s just horrific. This has been going on for some time actually and it was bound to come out at some point. I’ve had news of girls being made offers [by a member of the coaching staff] in the past, but for whatever reasons the girls chose not to pursue the case because they came from really poor backgrounds and were the sole bread-earners in their families. They didn’t want their names to be associated with anything like this. They said ‘Ma’am, we don’t need to go to the national team, so let’s just ignore this,” she said when the news first broke out on Thursday.
This will affect the entire team now. Some of them looked up to him as a father figure, and he’s suddenly no longer there. It’s going to be very difficult for them. They’re going to need every bit of counselling plus their own parent’s support to make them feel safe and secure.
“Qualifying for the World Cup is a very distant thought. Forget the World Cup, right now let’s just make it a safe space for our girls. The bare minimum: make Indian football a safe place for our girls,” Shah added.
Sexual harassment cases are emerging in Indian sports, intermittently. Recently a female cyclist accused the national coach of inappropriate behaviour during a training trip to Slovenia. The coach was sacked and is facing a detailed investigation. A female sailor had also accused the accompanying coach of making her uncomfortable during an exposure abroad.