Ex-Barça youth coach Albert Benaiges faces sexual abuse allegations
Club president Joan Laporta expresses support for all "possible victims"
Ex-FC Barcelona youth academy coach and coordinator Albert Benaiges has been accused of sexual abuse by around 60 former students of Escola Barcelona, where he was also a gym teacher in the 1980s and 1990s, as was first reported by Catalan newspaper Ara.
No allegations have surfaced from his time at Barça's La Masia academy from 1992 to 2011.
Benaiges, who had recently returned to the club un president Joan Laporta after a 10-year spell abroad, stepped down on December 2 due to what the club described as "personal reasons."
According to Ara, whose reporters spoke with around 100 people for this story, the former teacher masturbated beside his students while forcing them to do the same, watched pornographic content with them, touched children, and made them play sexually inappropriate games. The alleged abuse is said to have taken place in the school gym, dressing room showers, at his house, and at summer camp.
The Catalan Mossos d'Esquadra police have confirmed that "various reports" have been filed, while Catalonia's education department has also opened an investigation into these allegations.
Although Benaiges denies all sexual abuse claims, he told Ara that he would "not repeat" any of his actions.
Barça expresses shock and support
FC Barcelona president Joan Laporta, meanwhile, expressed "complete support" for all of Benaiges' "possible victims" and said the club had been cooperating with the Mossos. "We will always protect and defend minors and their families," Laporta said, adding that he would be "as transparent as possible" if any instances of sexual abuse were found to have occurred at the club.
Current Barça manager, the club's homegrown Xavi Hernández, said he had been "very shocked and affected" by the accusations: "I didn't expect it."
"I have known him for years and he was even my coach at times and never did suspect that any of this could have happened," he said after the Barça-Osasuna match on Saturday. "I'm not saying it didn't happen, but I had no suspicions. It's a complicated and delicate matter. Let's let justice runs its course."