Former Barcelona youth coach accused of sexual abuse
A senior Barcelona youth coach, Albert Benaiges, is being investigated in relation to multiple complaints of sexual abuse at a public school where he taught, Spanish police said Tuesday.
Catalonia’s regional police force, Mossos d’Esquadra, has received “several” formal complaints against Benaiges, a spokesman for the force told AFP, without providing further details.
“An investigation has been opened, the affair is not closed and police expect to receive a certain number of complaints,” he added.
Catalan newspaper Ara reported Friday that over 60 of Benaiges’s former students have accused him of sexually abused students while he was a physical education teacher at their public school in Barcelona. The complaints are from alleged victims of the abuse or former students who say they witnessed it.
Among the accusations levelled against Benaiges are claims that he showed children pornographic videos, exposed himself, touched children and made them undress in front of classmates.
The alleged abuse took place in the showers and gym of the school where he taught physical education for 38 years until 2010, as well as at his home and at camps.
Contacted by Ara, the 71-year-old denied the allegations.
“My conscience is very clear, I have never forced anybody,” he told the newspaper.
“I have never hurt anyone and if I have, it wasn’t intentionally.”
Benaiges was also a key member of Barcelona’s youth training academy, known as La Masia, from 1991-2011, coinciding with a generation of the club’s best players, including Andres Iniesta.
After leaving the club in 2011, Benaiges went on to work abroad for several years, including spells in Mexico, the United Arab Emirates and the Dominican Republic.
He rejoined FC Barcelona’s youth academy earlier this year after Joan Laporta was re-elected as the club’s president in March.
Benaiges left the club earlier this month. Ara reported that he parted ways with Barcelona the day after the club became aware of the paper’s investigation.
‘Surprised and stunned’
“This gentleman does not work for Barcelona anymore for personal reasons,” Laporta said Saturday when asked about the affair.
“We are collecting all available information on the subject, and when we have it, we will make an official statement,” he added.
The following day, Laporta expressed his “total support for all possible victims who have suffered these reprehensible acts.”
“FC Barcelona is working with the Mossos d’Esquadra to shed light and establish whether any of these events occurred within our stablishment.”
There have been no accusations from players at Barcelona.
Barcelona’s first team coach Xavi Hernandez, who was trained by Benaiges at the youth academy, said Saturday he was “surprised and stunned” by the allegations.
“I have never had any suspicions,” he added at a pre-match news conference.
In February 2019 Atletico Madrid severed its ties with the man who ran their youth academy after he admitted sexually abusing a boy in his charge in the 1970s at a school where he worked.