Albert Benaiges left his role with Barcelona last week. Photo by David S. Bustamante/Soccrates/Getty Images)
Joan Laporta has said Barcelona will collaborate with the police after Albert Benaiges, the former head of the club’s youth system, was accused of sexual abuse of children in his charge over 20 years, accusations he denies.
The Barca president has also offered his support to the people who came forward after an investigation by the newspaper Ara, which included interviews with more than 60 witnesses, detailed Benaiges’ actions when he was a physical education teacher at a school in the Catalan city during the 1980s and 1990s.
So far, per Ara’s investigation, one former student has made a formal statement to the police.
The allegations include Benaiges exposing himself to boys and girls at the school and touching children, but there have not been any accusations linked to Barca’s academy, where Benaiges worked between 1992 and 2012 before returning earlier this year.
“Barcelona completely support the possible victims that have suffered these reprehensible acts that have been reported at [a school in] Barcelona,” Laporta said in a recorded statement on Sunday.
“We are collaborating with the police with complete transparency to clarify if any of these acts took place at our club. We will always protect and defend minors and their families.
“Barca stand alongside those that suffer injustices and violence. We are not going to hide from this. If any case is detected at the club, we will deal with it with complete transparency, while always supporting those affected and their families.”
Benaiges, 71, was credited with discovering Andres Iniesta and also worked with Xavi Hernandez when the current Barcelona coach was younger. After holding several roles within the academy, he left in 2012 but returned in March when Laporta was re-elected as president.
Laporta added they would never have brought him back if they were aware of the allegations.
After leaving Barca, Benaiges, who was born in Mexico, worked for Al-Wasl in the United Arab Emirates, Chivas in Mexico and Cibao in the Dominican Republic before reuniting with Iniesta at Vissel Kobe in Japan.
He left his role with Barca last week having been made aware of Ara’s investigation.
“I have never hurt anyone and if I have done it hasn’t been intentionally,” Benaiges told Ara on Friday. “I have an adopted son and four foster children; my conscience is very clear, I have never forced anybody and I have denounced paedophiles.”