In what is another indictment of the state of Zimbabwean soccer, a top official(or should I say former) has been banned for five years from all soccer activity by governing body FIFA. This comes after being found guilty by a FIFA Ethics committee of sexually harassing three female referees. Today I want to talk about sexual harassment in sports and professional settings in general. The Me Too movement has brought sexual harassment into the spotlight in recent years BUT it has been there since time immemorial. The silence about it was more about women being passive in their activism. In terms of soccer, the advent of the women’s soccer world cup in 1991 and soccer leagues globally has seen more women take up positions in associations including FIFA. However, most positions are still occupied by males which leaves many junior female employees under the direct power of the.
The official from Zimbabwe, Obert Zhoya was a secretary general of ZIFA, the soccer association of that country. He was responsible for looking for referees and welfare of women’s national teams. As such he had power to make or break the three girl’s career. According to the women, Zhoya sent texts of Whatsapp requesting they meet at a hotel for sexual escapades. This is the first point I want to make clear about sexual harassment. At what point does it become sexual harassment?Let’s get this clear, asking out someone on a date(not knowing yet if they like you) isn’t sexual harassment. It becomes dangerous when you PERSIST to engage your love interest when they make it clear they are not having it. Sexual harassment thrives when there is no channel to air grievances or when there is no proper channels to investigate as with this case. The first complaint came forward in late 2020 and as unfortunate as it gets, FIFA referred back the complainant to CAF saying they have quote “no competence to investigate or judge the conduct.
It borders on harboring the crime almost. Sexual harassment is degrading to the psyche of the victim. Being viewed as only good for one thing makes one feel inferior. It should also be said that females are also capable of sexually harassing males and also male on male and female on female. Because the later scenarios are so rare, the authorities are quick to dismiss them as bogus especially in those conservative societies where homosexuality is frowned on. For example in most societies, a male who reports the misconduct is almost always ridiculed and seen as “weak”. So to finish, did Obert’s punishment fit the crime? Yes in my book. The punishment should be more of a deterrent to future perpetrators than anything else. The five years should make him think twice about doing it again as he will lose a lot of money away from the game. The fine(of about USD20 000) is a lot of money in Zimbabwe terms and sends a clear message of zero tolerance.