NWSL players united amid abuse claims

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National Women's Soccer League (NWSL) games on Wednesday evening were halted as players from opposing teams linked arms in a circle to demonstrate solidarity with two former players who came forward with allegations of sexual harassment and misconduct against a prominent coach.

The actions came during games between NJ/NY Gotham FC and the Washington Spirit in Philadelphia and between the North Carolina Courage and Racing Louisville in Cary, North Carolina.

"Tonight, we reclaim our place on the field, because we will not let our joy be taken from us," the NWSL Players' Association said in a statement released on Wednesday night.

"But this is not business as usual."

The league had just returned to the field after calling off last weekend's games while it came to terms with the allegations of former NWSL players Sinead Farrelly and Mana Shim levelled last week against their former Portland Thorns coach Paul Riley.

The allegations rocked the league and led to Riley being fired by his moat recent club, the Courage, and the resignation of NWSL Commissioner Lisa Baird.

Earlier on Wednesday, the owner of the Courage Steve Malik apologised for the franchise's "failure" to create an environment where players felt safe in coming forward.

US Soccer and FIFA have announced investigations into the league's handling of the Riley matter.

Meanwhile, Football Australia announced it was implementing a "complaint management procedure" after retired striker Lisa De Vanna said she had been the victim of sexual assault and harassment during her storied career.

In Venezuela, two dozen women's soccer players said in an open letter on Tuesday that many players had suffered years of sexual abuse and harassment by a former coach of the national team, Panamanian Kenneth Zseremeta.

The letter said one unnamed player said she was abused by Zseremeta in 2014 when she was 14 years old.

Zseremeta did not respond to a request for comment.

Venezuela's chief prosecutor Tarek Saab said he had assigned a prosecutor to open a criminal investigation into Zseremeta while the country's soccer federation said it supported the players.

with Reuters

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