Thursday 18 Apr 2024

Probe into assault on players needs impartial handling

| APRIL 01, 2024, 12:25 AM IST

Two players of the women’s team of the Himachal Pradesh-based Khad FC that plays in the second division of the Indian Women’s League organised by the All India Football Federation on Saturday complained against the team’s manager accusing him of entering their room, assaulting them and misbehaving in a drunken state. 

The complaint filed by the women players was duly registered by the Mapusa Police, since the team was put up at a hotel in Peddem in Mapusa, who arrested the accused Deepak Sharma after booking him for sexual harassment among other sections. Since then, Sharma has been granted bail. Sharma is a powerful AIFF official as well as of the Himachal Pradesh Football Association and as such holds a position of power with an unbridled ability to influence witnesses -- most of whom are players under his care and whose careers, quite literally, are in his hands. 

The charges against him are serious, and not unheard of in the sporting world in the country, including in football. Complaints against officials and managers are rare, as victims do not often have the courage to speak up fearing repercussions that could mean the end of their careers. As such, when the young women do have the courage to speak up, they should be given all the support as is necessary to take the case to its logical conclusion. 

On the other hand, however, several other teammates of the two victim players, including a woman manager, have come out in support of their manager saying that the allegations are false and that none of what was described by the victim players actually took place. Instead, they alleged that the two victim players had filed the complaint since they were “scolded” for leaving the hotel at night to travel to town to eat a meal, which was against the team rules, on a night before the match. The players concerned reacted violently to be told off, they alleged and the complaint was a result of being told off. 

It is pertinent to note, that while only a thorough investigation can bring out the truth, it is imperative that there is an impartial investigation and not one that is influenced by either the manager, who has the ability to misuse his position, or the teammates. At the same time, adult women players travelling out of the team hotel in the evening hours -- assuming the allegations are true -- should not be treated as the crime. Physical assault or corporal punishment is a strict no. 

Adult women, including girls have the ability to make their own decisions weighing the risks and possible consequences of their actions. Treating women players -- especially of that age group, like children and restricting their movement -- is something that needs to be handled sensitively and not with an iron hand, as seems to have been the case. 

The action of the team’s manager speaks of heavy handedness -- not unlike a school principal and not something that needs to be encouraged. To claim that the manager is responsible for the safety of the team is right, but only to an extent. Managers need to walk the tightrope of giving the players the freedom they need, respecting their choices as well as making them aware of the consequences. 

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