Patrick Assoumou Eyi, the long-serving coach in Gabon who is facing claims he raped, groomed and exploited young players, has been provisionally suspended by the country’s football association pending an investigation.
Gabon’s president, Ali Bongo, described the claims made by several alleged victims to the Guardian on Thursday as “a very serious matter”, with the government also announcing that it will hold a judicial investigation into possible sexual abuse against children and young people in all sports in the country.
Eyi – known as “Capello” – is accused of abusing boys in his previous role as the head coach of Gabon’s under-17 team and in his current role as the technical director for La Ligue de l’Estuaire. He has yet to respond directly to questions from the Guardian.
A statement from Franck Nguema, Gabon’s sports and youth minister, on Friday confirmed that the Gabonese Football Federation (Fegafoot) had provisionally banned Eyi “from all football activities”, with the case set to be investigated by its ethics committee. Eyi has also been suspended from his post as technical director.
Nguema’s statement made reference to the Guardian’s story, in which several unnamed alleged victims said they had not reported Eyi to police in Gabon because they did not have confidence in the justice system.
“For the president of the republic, head of state, Mr Ali Bongo Ondimba, ‘this is a very serious matter and an unacceptable one,’” he said. “We will also open a judicial investigation in the national football community, for possible sexual abuse, having been committed against children and young people, of all kinds (boys and girls), in order to identify the possible perpetrators and actors of these heinous crimes.
“In addition, I asked my colleague from justice to extend the investigation to all national sports federations, because now it is a question of eradicating all potential sexual predators from the world of national sport.”
Several more alleged victims have come forward to claim they were abused by Eyi since the Guardian’s article was published. The players’ union Fifpro has registered a complaint with Fifa over the accusations.
A Fegafoot statement said that the decision to suspend Eyi had been taken after a meeting of its executive committee on Thursday “to coldly analyse the situation”.
“In view of the seriousness of the facts, the executive committee has decided to suspend Mr Assoumou Eyi Patrick as a precautionary measure from all football-related activities,” it said. “In the process, the general secretary contacted the ethics commission for the opening of an investigation.”
Nguema said any sexual abuse of children in Gabonsese sport would “not go unpunished, and will be severely punished by law”.