Albert Benaiges, who had been working as the FC Barcelona’s youth academy manager since April until December 2nd, has been accused of sexual abuse. Benaiges also worked as a youth coach for Barça between 1991 and 2012.
According to an investigation from the Catalan newspaper Ara, around 60 witnesses reported the abuse that occurred over a period of 20 years.
The revelations have rocked the club, as Benaiges was previously seen as a beloved figure in Barcelona, credited for “discovering” Andrés Iniesta, with connections to the club’s most famous players, coaches, and club executives.
The coach was said to be abusive and committed several crimes against boys and girls. Ara writes:
He masturbated with 13-year-old boys, they watched porn movies, there was touching and sexual games. These situations took place in the showers of the school, in the gym, at home and in the summer camps that took place in Corçà. These experiences have “traumatized” at least four students. In parties these students held years after leaving school, the subject always came up.
He is accused of forcing kids of the opposite sex to shower together, exposing himself to students, frequently going into the girls’ locker room to watch them while they showered, and repeatedly touching students inappropriately.
Benaiges denies any inappropriate contact but expressed some regret, saying there were things he did he would not repeat. He admits to barging into the girls’ dressing room, but says it was to check in on students showering, not voyeurism. He also admits to masturbating with monitors who were 17 to 20 years old, though he later admitted that perhaps a minor had “snuck in” to these sessions.
He is quoted as saying:
“Now, I wouldn’t do anything. Absolutely nothing. I regret doing all this, yes, but I do not think I did anything wrong. I’ve never hurt anyone and, if I have, it wasn’t intentional. I have an adopted child and four foster children. I have a clear conscience, I have never forced anyone, I have denounced pedophiles,”
A group of former students have filed a complaint to the police and Benaiges was dismissed by Barcelona when the club found out about the report.
The report is also damming for the Barça Academy school, which did not stop him from committing the alleged crimes. In fact, the report tells of an incident in which five students were forced to apologize for their “lies” when they brought the matter up to administrators.
“The school,” Ara writes, “did nothing.”
Parents even went as far as withdrawing students from the school to keep them away from him, but Benaiges was said to be protected as the “crown jewel.”
Xavi, the current head coach of Barcelona, was taught by Benaiges when he was a youth player. The manager has spoken on the issue, saying he was “stunned” by the report, but it would be up to the justice system to decide.
“I don’t have any information that these type of episodes occurred, although that does not mean that they did not happen,” he said.
After Benaiges’s first spell at Barcelona, he left for Dubai and had a few coaching jobs in Mexico, the Dominican Republic, and Japan. Notably, he was dismissed from his job as the director of the youth department of C.D. Guadalajara (AKA Chivas) in his native Mexico due to complaints from parents. However, the complaints have not been reported to be sexual in nature in that case, but in light of new evidence, perhaps more information will come out surrounding those circumstances.
He returned after the election of Joan Laporta as club president. Laporta was set on renewing the club from top to bottom, and he did so by firing a lot of staff and hiring a lot new staff, or in some cases bringing back staff that had been gone for a while. The appointment of the 71-year-old Benaiges proved to be short lived.