Another scandal has engulfed the world of Estonian sport, this one involving allegations of sexual abuse by a football coach towards one or more female players, while they were still in their teens. The Estonian Football League (EJL) has launched an internal investigation into the matter, while the Police and Border Guard Board (PPA) are currently not involved.
A former women's football player says that Fredo Getulio Aurelio, a Brazilian national who has been coach of top-flight Tallinn team Nõmme Kalju FC since 2007, has subjected her to sexual abuse over a lengthy period of time, starting when she was 14 years old
As a result of the claims, made by former player Mia Belle Trisna, now in her 20s, on commercial TV channel Kanal 2 show "Õhtu" (link in Estonian), the EJL has initiated disciplinary proceedings and an investigation into both Aurelio, 66, and Nõmme Kalju FC.
The PPA are not reported to be involved in the case. The age of consent in Estonia is 14.
Anne Rei, EJL secretary general, said that: "In the course of the investigation, information was gathered that confirms the suspicions based on the materials issued in the media."
Rei stressed the importance of potential victims stepping forwards, noting that more than one person had done so.
"It is important that the victims dare to report themselves and that there is more than one such person in this situation," she continued.
The procedure was initiated on the basis of materials collected during the disciplinary investigation, and the coaches' contract has been suspended for the duration of the inquiry, the team says.
Ehte Eamets, Nõmme Kalju's general manager, said via a press release that the accusations of one of the team's female players against a long-term and valued coach had come as a major surprise, not least to Aurelio himself.
"When the news reached Getulio Aurelio, he immediately came to talk to us about it. He was so shocked and surprised, that he couldn't even find words," Eamets said.
Coaches' contract currently suspended
At the same time, Aurelio confirmed he had had a close relationship with a football player, though from rival team FC Flora.
"A girl who was a player at the time, at FC Flora 's women's team, wanted private training from him (i.e. Aurelio -ed.), and that's where the relationship started," Eamest scontinued, adding that no complaint had been made about Aurelio's conduct in the past, on or off the football field, and that Nõmme Kalju FC was prepared to fully cooperate with the EJL inquiry.
As a result, Aurelio's contract has been suspended for the time being.
Anne Rei and the EJL urge all those with any information on the matter, or similar cases, to contact them in confidence by email.
The EJL says it is cooperating with the Social Insurance Board (Sotsiaalkindlustusamet) in providing assistance and counseling where needed, and says it will cooperate with other state agencies also.
Estonian-language football portal soccernet.ee has also reported in a lengthy piece (link in Estonian) the testimony of several witnesses who allege that Aurelio had not ony paid particular attention to Trisna, but also allegedly sexually abused at least one other women's player, aged 17 at the time.
Additionally, a senior prosecutor at the Northern District Prosecutor's office, told Soccernet that the acts as described by Mia Belle Trisna would constitute a second-degree crime.
Sexual harassment allegations and ensuing cases have on occasion emerged in the media in Estonia prior to their being investigated by the Police and Border Guard Board (PPA), itself heavily directed by the prosecutor's office.
Nõmme Kalju club president, Kuno Tehva, told ERR's sports portal (link in Estonian) that the past couple of days had been difficult and prompted much sadness, resentment and also many questions.
Tehva said: "Regardless of the explanations of our mcuh-valued coach, what he has told us or what he intends to tell the public, and regardless of how long the relationship between the coach and his charge lasted, is clear that building close relationships with minors at an early age is not acceptable in any way, shape or form."
"Nõmme Kalju unequivocally condemns all forms of child abuse. We call on everyone to pay attention and mind that our children can have a safe environment for training, development and growth," Tehva continued.
"Only by working together, supporting and trusting each other, can we create the best environment for clubs, coaches, support staff, children and parents. This trust is not born of wisdom alone or in hindsight. We must all strive for it all the time. remain obscure for someone., he added, noting that the club, which was promoted to the top-flight in 2008 where it has remained, had already been looking at restructuring itself in recent years as success has led to it continuing to grow.
The Social Insurance Board has issued this page, which contains information in English on where to get help concerning all types of abuse, which has, the board says, seen an increase during the coronavirus pandemic and ensuing restrictions.
Aurelio: Relationship was consensual
Aurelio appeared on Postimees broadcast "Otse postimehest" later on Saturday, giving his side of the story, in English, accompanied by his lawyer, Robert Sarv.
Aurelio said that Nõmme Kalju players were sticking by him, and confirmed he had had an intimate relationship with Mia Belle Trisna, which he said was not coerced, and had ended when she was 21 years of age.
He denied other charges of manipulation of women players and others while coaching Nõmme Kalju, and said that Trisna had likely appeared on the "Õhtu" broadcast because she had a book to sell.
This article was updated to include Fredo Getulio Aurelio's remarks on "Otse Postimehest".
Editor: Andrew Whyte