The recently concluded under-20 Women's World Cup in Costa Rica was the first youth tournament to implement FIFA's safeguarding program, aimed at keeping participants and fans safe from abuse, exploitation and harassment.
FIFA announced Tuesday that all 32 games were staffed by a safeguarding official as well as a representative from Costa Rica's National Children's Institute.
The teams that participated in the tournament were briefed on the program upon arrival and materials were distributed to raise awareness and inform participants how to report incidents. Visits were also made to practices and team hotels.
Spain defeated Japan 3-1 in the World Cup final on Sunday in San Jose.
“As a priority at FIFA, we want everyone in football to feel welcome, respected and, most importantly, safe at FIFA competitions and across all levels of the game — especially children, who are the most vulnerable,” said Marie-laure Lemineur, FIFA’s head of safeguarding and child protection.
Reports of sexual abuse in Afghanistan and Haiti in recent years spurred the program. Federation officials in both countries have been banned by FIFA for life. Gabon's federation is currently under investigation amid allegations of underage abuse.
The safeguarding program is part of the FIFA Guardians initiative, announced following the 2019 Women’s World Cup to ensure player safety. It was developed with UNICEF, the United Nations children’s agency.
The safeguarding program will also be in place at the under-17 Women's World Cup in India in October, and the senior Women's World Cup in Australia and New Zealand next summer.
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Anne M. Peterson, The Associated Press