Australian, Venezuelan Women’s Soccer Stars Report Abuse Following NWSL Scandal

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Professional women’s soccer players in Australia and Venezuela have come forward with sexual misconduct allegations following a series of revelations about abuse that have shaken the U.S. National Women’s Soccer League.

A statement posted on social media Tuesday, signed by two dozen players in Venezuela’s women’s national soccer team, condemned what the athletes described as years of physical, psychological and sexual abuse and harassment by former coach Kenneth Zseremeta.

Zseremeta was head coach of the team for close to a decade. He was also coach of the Panamanian women’s national team.

The statement said that in 2020 an unnamed Venezuelan player told her teammates she had been sexually abused by Zseremeta since she was 14.

It also said Zseremeta frequently questioned players about their sexual orientation and made other inappropriate advances, including asking players for massages.

The Venezuelan Football Federation did not immediately respond to a request for comment. An attempt to contact Zseremeta was unsuccessful.

Atletico Madrid forward Deyna Castellanos wrote a personal statement about the abuse in addition to signing and publishing the group letter.

“For a long time, we had all convinced ourselves that these experiences were normal. I had assumed that this machista environment built on exploitive control and degradation was the price a woman athlete had to pay to be a professional player,” Castellanos wrote in her personal statement.

However, reading about what her American counterparts had been through had affected her deeply, she said.

She thanked Sinead Farrelly and Mana Shim, the former NWSL players who went public with their allegations last week in a bombshell report published by The Athletic that led to the immediate firing of North Carolina Courage head coach Paul Riley.

According to the women and screenshots of correspondence, the league had been aware of the allegations against Riley for years. After he was fired from the Portland Thorns in Oregon over a 2015 complaint, he was hired by the Courage, where he coached until the allegations were made public last week. (Riley has denied the claims.)

The report prompted the NWSL players’ union to demand immediate action to change what it called a culture of silence and systemic abuse. Riley was the third coach to be fired over misconduct since August and the second last week.

In the fallout since, NWSL Commissioner Lisa Baird has resigned, as has Washington Spirit CEO Steve Baldwin.

The union said Wednesday it stood with the Venezuelan players:

In Australia, two top soccer players also spoke up about misconduct.

Lisa De Vanna, a legendary former player in the country’s national women’s team, told Australian newspaper The Daily Telegraph she was subjected to sexual harassment, grooming and bullying from senior players throughout her 20-year career.

Another player, Rhali Dobson, also came forward with claims of a toxic culture and predatory behavior.

Football Australia said it was committed to supporting the players and urged athletes to come forward with formal reports.

Prior to the publication of the Daily Telegraph report, De Vanna had shared a tweet by U.S. soccer star Megan Rapinoe saying she had witnessed women, players and organizations protecting abusers.

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