A FIFA program aimed at helping to prevent abuse and misconduct in soccer through education has graduated its first class even as a number of high-profile scandals continue to mar the sport.
The 111 graduates of the two-year course included participants from 70 member federations around the world.
“Our mandate is to protect everyone in football, all roles. And there are two sides of our work, prevention and response. The prevention part is about growing a mindset, or a safeguarding culture, within the institutions," Marie-Laure Lemineur, FIFA's head of safeguarding and child protection, told The Associated Press. “This is an educational process."
The conclusion of the five-part course comes after a series of scandals, ranging from allegations of misconduct in the National Women's Soccer League to the Spanish federation president forcibly kissing player Jenni Hermoso following the nation's victory at the Women's World Cup.
FIFA rolled out a safeguarding program at the under-20 Women’s World Cup in Costa Rica last year aimed at keeping participants and fans safe from abuse, exploitation and harassment. Games were staffed by a safeguarding official and all participants were briefed about abuse and how to report it. A similar program was in place at the Women’s World Cup in Australia and New Zealand this summer.
The educational program culminated with a Safeguarding Summit in Zurich this week that included global soccer union FIFPRO, the International Olympic Committee and the Center for Sport and Human Rights.
The Safeguarding in Sport course is an outgrowth of FIFA Guardians, launched in 2019 after revelations of widespread sexual abuse of young players in England and the absence of any programs to protect them.
While federations like the English FA and U.S. Soccer already have extensive safeguarding programs in place, FIFA's intent is to spread the message to smaller federations that have more limited resources.
“Football is about joy, happiness, smiles, peace and about learning to win and to lose, to be part of a team. And we cannot allow its values to be undermined by any form of abuse or harassment. This is especially the case for children,” FIFA President Gianni Infantino said in a message to the summit.
FIFA plans to continue the program.
AP soccer: https://apnews.com/hub/Soccer
Anne M. Peterson, The Associated Press