Weekly: Elva football club ends nude photos coach contract five years later

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A football (photo is illustrative). Source: Ken Mürk/ERR

Another case of alleged inappropriate sexual behavior on the part of a coach towards a young woman football player has been reported, this time at second division team FC Elva, investigative weekly Eesti Eskpress wrote earlier this week. The incidents entailed the sending of unsolicited nude photographs to more than one recipient, the weekly reports, and had actually been reported by daily Õhtuleht when they happened, nearly five years ago.

The Estonian Football League (EJL) has initiated its second set of disciplinary proceedings in less than a week in the wake of the Eesti Ekspress article (link in Estonian).

Late last week, the EJL launched an investigation into top-flight team FC Nõmme Kalju after sexual abuse allegations appeared in the media concerning Fredo Getúlio Aurelio, a coach at the team. Aurelio's contract with Nõmme Kalju is suspended, while the matter is also being investigated by the Police and Border Guard Board, directed by the prosecutor's office as per standard practice, and a criminal case under Section 1432 of the Penal Code dealing with sexual intercourse or other sexual acts between an adult and a minor was opened Thursday, ERR's sports portal reports.

The Eesti Ekspress article alleged that in 2016 the Elva coach, Marek Naaris, now 39, sent nude photos of himself to young women then aged 14, together with appeals to engage in sexual activity with him.

One of the individuals, Lauri (name changed – ed.) said she told other staff at the club at the time, though nothing was done at the time.

"I was ... amazed that noone stepped in to defend me. The question was not raised as to how the coach would be expelled from the club, but instead he who had that on their conscience still continued to work at the club," Lauri told Eesti Ekspress.

The age of consent in Estonia is 14, but individuals are still considered minors until the age of 18, which has raised the question of what to do with this anomaly following the two recent cases. The Minister of Social Protection Signe Riisalo (Reform) has pledged to pursue raising the age of consent, while the opposition Social Democratic Party (SDE) tabled a bill earlier this week aimed at doing just that – to age 16, as it is in, for instance, Finland, or the U.K.

Following publication of the Eesti Ekspress piece, club president Margus Ivask spoke to Naaris, whose contract has since been terminated, though the story was first reported by evening paper Õhtuleht in 2016.

No disciplinary proceedings followed that piece, in which an anonymous source was cited.

Following the Aurelio story breaking late last week, Lauri said she contacted EJL director Anne Rei to ask her why nothing had been done in her case.

""I told her you could see this type of incident had been covered up in 2016. Why was that? There was no special answer forthcoming," Lauri said. "I said I had information about Marek [Naaris]. Rei said this was finished, they were not working on it anymore. The individual had been treated. They (i.e. the EJL – ed.) knew that things were now okay."

Ivask and FC Elva's press release read: "Based on the new information received during the meeting and on Thursday, the board and staff of the club found that the continuation of Marek Naaris with FC Elva football club is no longer viable, considering all the circumstances."

The EJL has initiated disciplinary proceedings based on information received on March 17 and 18 alleging a breach of best practices and good conduct, the EJL says. The police and prosecutor's office are as yet not involved.

Naaris: No justification for what I did

Marek Naaris subsequently issued a statement in which he expressed remorse and said he had behaved shamefully, ERR's sports portal reports.

"I have confessed to the relevant investigative bodies at the time and I still admit my mistakes, and I have dealt with this problem in the period since the events described. I went through the processes prescribed by the authorities involved for the surprise organized media coverage yesterday and today," Naaris wrote Thursday evening.

He stated the incidents in question pertained to the years 2014-2015.

"First of all, there is no justification for what my boyish self did toward underage girls. However, it should be emphasized that these incidents were the sending of messaged with intimate undertones / pictures while flirting with a girl, and not the physically harassing or sexually exploitation of one person by another person, at any level of influence," he went on.

"I have also proved responsible for my actions through outright shame in respect of my colleagues on a daily basis, and even more so when I personally apologized to the people involved," Naaris continued. 

"As a result, over the next five years (i.e. since 2016 – ed.), I focused all my energy on the development of FC Elva and youth sports, to make up for what has been done, and I have certainly stepped on very many toes."

Naaris added that similar incidents have happened between him and people who were adults, though since noone either told him directly or implied that his behavior constituted harassment or was intrusive, and that no relationship between the parties should continue, it was hard for him to take any position, meaning he offered his apologies and was willing to make amends if people let him know privately how that might be done.

"Life is not a like virtual football game where you can erase mistakes and start over again. Life is more like a real football match, where minor infringements are dealt with through a free kick or penalty, and more serious offenses result in a yellow or red card," he continued.

"Isn't it up to each 'referee' to decide for themselves which card my laddish nonsense merits, and whether that card should stand until the end of the game / season, or for life," he wrote, noting that he could not add any more detail to what the media had arealy reported, since investigations were ongoing and none of the parties involved had shared the content of the allegations with him.

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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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