Australian, Venezuelan soccer players allege sexual misconduct in the wake of NWSL scandal


The soccer world was turned upside down last week when the National Women’s Soccer League was rocked by scandal. North Carolina Courage head coach Paul Riley was fired after several allegations of sexual misconduct were brought forth by former players Sinead Farrelly and Mana Shim while he was with the Portland Thorns back in 2015. In addition, NWSL commissioner Lisa Baird resigned following the allegations. 

On Tuesday, Washington Spirit CEO and managing partner Steve Baldwin resigned after all 27 Spirit players signed a letter asking Baldwin to step down. This came after a Washington Post report unearthed a toxic work environment and allegations of abuse and harassment, which led to the dismissal of then-head coach Richie Burke. The league paused over the weekend but will resume its season on Wednesday.

Want more coverage of the shakeup in women’s soccer? Listen below and make sure to follow Attacking Third, A CBS Soccer Podcast devoted to bringing you everything you need to know from the NWSL and around the globe.

As a result of the shakeup in the NWSL, soccer leagues around the world are urging their players to come forward with any type of abuse that is going on, specifically in Venezuela and Australia.

Twenty-four Venezuelan women’s national soccer team players have come forth to allege sexual harassment and abuse involving former head coach Kenneth Zseremeta. Zseremeta served as Venezuela’s women’s national team head coach for nine years until he was fired back in 2017. He’s now the head coach of the Panamanian women’s national team and has yet to respond to the allegations.

Atletico Madrid’s Deyna Castellanos published a letter on social media in addition to a personal statement regarding the sexual abuse. The two dozen Venezuelan players stated that they “decided to break the silence to avoid the situations of abuse and harassment, physical, psychological and sexual.”

The letter also pointed out that one player alleged that she had been sexually abused since she was 14. It didn’t reveal the specific player that was being talked about.

The letter also mentions that Zseremeta repeatedly asked players questions about their sexual orientation and there were instances of “physical and psychological abuse” during the national team’s training sessions.

Meanwhile, there are also allegations of sexual misconduct concerning the Australian national team. Retired Australian women’s national team star Lisa De Vanna revealed that she experienced harassment and abuse starting in 2001 when she joined the national team at the age of 17.

In an interview with Sydney’s Daily Telegraph, De Vanna alleged that she’d been pulled down from behind by former teammates and had to fight her way “off the floor kicking and screaming.”

“They thought it was funny. I was just a young kid from Perth, I didn’t know any different. I … wanted to punch them,” De Vanna said. “As a youngster and a player I didn’t know how to address this … but it is still happening across all levels and it’s time to speak up.”

De Vanna decided to go public with the allegations in the wake of the scandal involving Riley and the NWSL. 

The former Australian soccer star recently reacted to a tweet from United States women’s soccer icon Megan Rapinoe, who posted the message “Men protecting men, who are abusing Women” in response to the NWSL scandal.

De Vanna also said that she’s seen “cultural problems at all levels — from men and women — and girls coming through need to be brave, and also the girls that have been through this also need to be brave and know they are not alone.”

“In any sporting organization and in any environment, grooming, preying and unprofessional behavior makes me sick.”

Football Australia, the governing body of soccer in Australia, announced that it would be “in a position to investigate” if De Vanna files a formal complaint “through the appropriate channels.”





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