Gabon opened their Afcon 2021 account with a narrow win over the Comoros Islands on Monday. This is good news considering what has been happening off the pitch. First their captain Pierre Emerick Aubamayeng missed the match because he went partying in Dubai and contacted Covid-19 along with former Southampton player Mario Lemina. Now FIFA has instituted an investigation into endemic sexual abuse of minors in Gabonese soccer. A former under 17s coach Patrick Assoumou Eyi has been accused of raping minors in exchange for securing places in the team. He along with Gabon Premier League chief Serge Mombo have been accused of taking advantage of their positions to elicit sexual favors. Mombo is part of the delegation that went to Cameroon 2021 for the AFCON Tournament. Seems Mombo was everywhere in Gabon soccer. He also served as a referee on the FIFA panel as well. No doubt he has high status in Gabonese soccer. That lofty status may have contributed to the victims reporting to the authorities on time.

Although the timeline of the deeds hasn’t been made public, it is likely they date back years. This also weakens the victim’s case. As in all the other sexual abuse cases the mere fact that an accusation leveled is enough to end a career guilty or not. The classic case is the Duke Lacrosse Team of 2006. Their case was about a student who part timed as a stripper and dancer Crystal Mangum who accused three team members of rape at a party at the captain of the team’s house. The accusations crumbled on the face of DNA evidence which didn’t match any of the boys. The media circus that followed Mangum accusations led the accused persons dumping the sport in favor of other careers. It also led to the prosecutor in the case getting disbarred for presuming guilt before a trial was even conducted. So we can’t take accusations at face value until a trial is convened and a conviction is obtained. At the same time the victims here are minors of which their identities have to be protected whether they are telling the truth or not. This is done so as to protect their esteem if indeed the accusations are true whilst also protecting them from public scorn should they be false too. Society has a knack for siding with the perpetrator of the rape because they would be someone who has maybe helped someone during the course of duty. In the case of Mombo it could be that he has raised a lot of money for the League thus could have support of the soccer fraternity in Gabon.