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All India Football Federation Forms Panel To Probe Alleged Physical Assault Of Two Women Footballers In Goa

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New Delhi: The All India Football Federation (AIFF) on Saturday asked its executive committee member Deepak Sharma to refrain from game-related activities till the conclusion of a probe by a panel into his alleged physical assault of two women footballers in Goa. Two footballers of Himachal Pradesh-based Khad FC, taking part in the Indian Women’s Football (IWL) League second division, had alleged that Sharma, the owner of the club, had barged into their room and physically assaulted them on the night of March 28.

They filed a complaint with the competition committee of the AIFF and the Goa Football Association (GFA), which was hosting the tournament, also lodged a complaint at the Mapusa police station on the basis of the complaint of the two women footballers.

In the complaint, according to sources, the two players said Sharma was in an inebriated state for most of the time and they were “scared of their lives”. Sharma was later arrested by Mapusa police under various sections, including causing hurt, using force against women, among others, according to Deputy Superintendent of Police Sandesh Chodankar.

Union Sports Minister Anurag Thakur earlier in the day asked the AIFF to take “quick” and “strong legal action” against the official. The AIFF stopped short of suspending Sharma, who is also the secretary-general of the Himachal Pradesh Football Association, besides being the owner of the club and a member of the executive committee of the national federation.

“The AIFF was formally notified by players from Khad FC, participating in the IWL 2 in Goa, of certain incidents of alleged physical assault and harassment on them on March 29,” the AIFF said in a release after an emergent meeting of its senior members.

“The AIFF president has instructed the committee to submit a report within seven days. In the meantime, Mr Deepak Sharma, who was allegedly involved in the unfortunate incident, has been directed to step back and refrain from participating in all football-related activities until the conclusion of the committee’s process.

“The AIFF is also working with the players involved to ensure their safe passage home.” The committee comprises executive committee member Pinky Bompal Magar, AIFF’s Safety and Child Safeguarding Officer Rita Jairath and Vijay Bali.

Taking a serious note of the incident, Thakur had said that the safety and security of players are of utmost priority for the sports ministry. “The Ministry of Sports has taken a serious note of an alleged physical assault upon women footballers by an official during the ongoing Indian Women’s League in Goa,” he tweeted.

“AIFF has been directed to take quick action and ensure the safety and security of our footballers. The ministry has further directed AIFF to take strong legal action and inform the ministry about actions taken. The safety and security of players are our utmost priority.”

Asked why Sharma was not suspended immediately, AIFF President Kalyan Chaubey said, “If we do that (suspension of Sharma), the committee would have been left with little work. “There are two versions and unless we come to the correct information … the girl is saying he (Sharma) slapped her. He is saying the girl had gone out after 11pm and so it was a fatherly scolding and he was concerned more about her safety and security going out at 11pm.

“The girl is saying she was feeling hungry and she had gone out to buy eggs. He is saying since he is the secretary-general of the state association and owner of the club, it was his responsibility to take care of the safety and security of all the players and hence scolded them as a father figure.”

He said the committee will further probe the matter and take more statements from both sides. He also said that three witnesses also signed the complaint letter sent to the AIFF. “Whether his (Sharma’s) actions were under the influence of alcohol or he did it due to genuine concern, he has to prove,” said Chaubey, adding that the probe by the AIFF’s panel will be independent of the police investigation.

The AIFF president also asserted that the federation took prompt action into the incident. “We took action within 10-12 hours after we got the complaint (from the two players) last night. We called an emergency committee meeting this morning and took the decision. “Our women’s football committee chairperson Valanka Alemao (who is a Goan) was also there to give moral support to the players.”

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