(NEW YORK) — FIFA, soccer’s world governing body, confirmed Friday that it is investigating alleged misconduct involving the women’s national team of Zambia during the World Cup.
“FIFA takes any allegation of misconduct extremely seriously and has a clear process in place for anyone in football who wants to report an incident,” a FIFA spokesperson told ABC News in a statement. “We can confirm that a complaint has been received in relation to the Zambian Women’s National team and this is currently being investigated. We cannot provide further details regarding an ongoing investigation for obvious confidentiality reasons.”
The spokesperson added: “Anyone who wishes to report allegations or information related to abuse in football can do so via FIFA’s confidential reporting platform, with all information that is submitted to FIFA handled in the strictest of confidence. In addition, FIFA offers support and assistance to ensure the safety of those who report a safeguarding issue, including witnesses who come forward and give testimony in FIFA Judicial cases. Where guilt is established, FIFA takes the strongest possible sanctions, including removing people from the game for life. Our track record demonstrates this.”
The Guardian reported Thursday that Zambian coach Bruce Mwape has been accused of rubbing his hands over the chest of one of his players days before the team’s historic victory over Costa Rica in their final match at the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup. The article cited “a source close to the squad” who said several players witnessed the incident after training on July 28.
In response to The Guardian’s article, the Football Association of Zambia (FAZ) released a statement on Friday saying it “has not received any such complaint from any of the players or officials in the delegation that travelled to the World Cup.”
“It has therefore come as a surprise for us to hear of such alleged misconduct by the coach as reported in the said online publication,” FAZ General Secretary Reuben Kamanga said. “As a matter of fact, all the training sessions for the Copper Queens were filmed by the FAZ media team and offers no such footage as envisioned by The Guardian. Additionally, a FIFA film crew attached to the Zambian team at the World Cup was present at all training sessions.”
He continued: “We however wish to reassure the public that FAZ maintains the highest standards of integrity and transparency and always demands unwavering ethical conduct of the players and officials on and off the field of play. We therefore would not hesitate to take disciplinary measures and act on any misconduct once we are in receipt of an official complaint or when presented with evidence pertaining to an alleged incident.”
Monday’s win marked the first-ever victory at the finals for the Zambian women’s team, which qualified for and participated in the tournament for the first time. Zambia had already been eliminated after 5-0 defeats by Japan and Spain, but the team finished third in the group stage after beating Costa Rica 3-1.
FAZ appointed Mwape to coach the women’s team of the southern African nation in May 2018.
In September 2022, FAZ announced it had referred a probe into sexual abuse allegations in the women’s game to FIFA. Mwape was believed to be among the FAZ employees who were investigated, according to The Guardian.
“If he [Mwape] wants to sleep with someone, you have to say yes,” one player who did not want to be named told The Guardian last month. “It’s normal that the coach sleeps with the players in our team.”
The 63-year-old coach has previously denied the accusations.
“It has taken about a year now. You are still talking about the same allegations,” Mwape told reporters in New Zealand on July 22, before his team’s first match at the World Cup. “As far as I’m concerned, they are fake allegations.”
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