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The Case Of Santi Mina, A Warning: "You have to work against sexual violence from very early on"

The conviction of the Celta striker for abuse highlights that football has not been prepared to alert about sexual violence. Neither the clubs nor the players' environments enter into an area that they consider private.

Finance, communication, social networks, psychology and nutrition are areas in which elite footballers receive training. What was unthinkable two decades ago, today is an apprenticeship provided by clubs and representation agencies since they begin to stand out in lower categories.

They must be prepared for everything. However, there is one aspect that the conviction of the Celta striker Santi Mina has brought to light: they are not warned about behavior classified as sexual violence or about the tremendous damage that is caused to the victims. The question is should they be? The answer is not easy because, until now, no one had considered it and there are also doubts about who should provide this training, the clubs or their representatives.

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In LaLiga, the case of Santi Mina is unique, with the precedent of the three Arandina players, but other convictions of elite footballers are known. Robinho, a former Real Madrid striker, was sentenced in January to nine years in prison for a crime of sexual violence committed in 2013, when the Brazilian was playing for AC Milan. To avoid prison he took refuge in Brazil, but Santos suspended his signing due to pressure from his sponsors after his conviction.

In England, the Welshman Ched Evans, a Sheffield United player, who served four years to finally be acquitted in 2016, and Adam Johnson went to prison, convicted in 2011 of having sex with a minor under 15 years of age. Pending trial is City defender Benjamin Mendy, suspended from employment and salary who faces nine charges of sexual crime filed by six women between 2020 and 2021. Cristiano Ronaldo was accused but was not even sued after reaching a millionaire out-of-court settlement.

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"No one tells them how they can sink the victim's life, but neither does anyone tell them that one night it can cost them their career." The reflection is from Isabel García, director of the Elig consultancy and expert in Equality, which is developing protocols for the prevention and detection of sexual violence in the field of sport. "It is very evident that, fortunately, only a few do this and that it is a matter of education, but we must start working on this and at an early age," she warns.

The NBA or the Major Soccer League already do it. In the case of the American basketball bosses, it trains its newly arrived players, the rookies, on mundane issues such as housing or managing their money, but also on drugs, alcohol and sexual behavior. They are warned about the serious consequences. In soccer, the organization itself, faced with a barrage of lawsuits for harassment, established a protocol that indicates that not only players but also managers cannot be alone with employees.

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In Europe, competitions and federations have protocols but they do not translate them into preventive training. "There are only a few clubs in the Basque Country that are already doing it and others that are beginning to take an interest. It has to be introduced into the lives of the players because it is unacceptable behavior in any person, but even more so in a benchmark", recalls García, who insists on advising clubs to start work in the lower categories. "Players and their families are trained on issues that have become aware of such as bullying or equality, why not help them identify what behaviors of sexual violence can be and avoid them? That it does not have to be an abuse or an aggression, but a joke or a macho comment," says the expert.

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From the representation agencies it is recognized that this case "is an alert" to reflect on an issue that most see as far away that it may occur and that they consider that it affects the very private sphere of the players. "We know them, we have a close relationship with them, you cannot think that they are going to commit a crime," 

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The absence of training does not mean, they remember, that the boys are not warned from the "fatherly figure" exercised by some representatives, advisers to their soccer players in many areas of their lives and that, for some time now, they choose in a way carefully the profiles with which they work. They are at the service of the players, but they also invest in making them grow. Any conflict in which a player is immersed can be a reputational slab, almost impossible to lift if it is a crime of these characteristics.

"The perception of society has changed and the footballer has to be clear about it. The view that nothing can resist a rich and famous athlete already has many nuances, because there are behaviors that are inadmissible," insists Isabel García.

In fact, this expert, who is already in contact with a team to develop protocols and guidelines for the prevention of sexual violence, defends that the clubs perceive it as such. "Celta has quickly sent out a message that he doesn't admit it and it has permeated its social mass. That has been opening a door that can no longer be closed."

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