April 2, 2018 / 8:36 PM / 9 months ago

Soccer-River Plate says will cooperate in sex abuse investigation

BUENOS AIRES, April 2 (Reuters) - Argentine football club River Plate said on Monday it would cooperate with any investigation into allegations young players were sexually abused there in the past.

A lawyer for the charity Help for Rape Victims said a former doctor at the club had told the organisation two boys were sexually abused while living at club accommodation.

The doctor said she was fired when she reported the incidents, which took place between 2004 and 2011, the lawyer, Andres Bonicalzi, said. A girl who played volleyball at the club was also a victim, he added.

“The abuses that they told the doctor about took place inside the club’s facilities,” Bonicalzi told reporters.

River Plate said in a statement it would provide investigators “all the elements it has at its disposal to help clear up the situation”.

The report widens a sexual abuse scandal that broke last month when a psychologist at Independiente, one of Argentina’s top clubs, said two players, aged 15 and 16, told her that they and other youths were forced into prostitution by a 19-year old player at the club.

A Buenos Aires prosecutor opened an investigation at the club, then a few days later widened her remit, saying she believed the abuse was more widespread.

The players had come to Independiente’s youth teams from cities in the interior and were housed at a club facility on the outskirts of Buenos Aires, where the older player allegedly coerced them into sex acts.

“We aren’t sure that this is related to that network,” Bonicalzi said on Monday. “We understand that it could be the same thing. But we don’t know. Maybe the abuses were isolated.”

River Plate is one of the two biggest clubs in Buenos Aires and where all-time greats such as Enzo Francescoli, Daniel Passarella and Alfredo di Stefano made their names.

Independiente is one of Argentina’s most successful football teams, having won the Copa Libertadores, South America’s equivalent of Europe’s Champions League, a record seven times. (Reporting by Ramiro Scandalo, writing by Andrew Downie Editing by Robin Pomeroy)

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