The former director of Barcelona’s youth teams, Albert Benaiges, has been accused of sexually abusing dozens of former pupils at a public school where he worked in Barcelona, Spanish media reported on Saturday.
Catalan newspaper ARA reported that more than 60 of Benaiges’s former students accused him of having sexually abused them while he was a physical education teacher at their public school. ARA said Benaiges has denied any wrongdoing.
Barcelona coach Xavi Hernandez spoke on Saturday shortly after authorities in northeastern Spain said they were opening an investigation into the accusations. Hernández said he was “surprised” by the news.
It seems none of the former players for Barcelona has joined the accusations.
The 71-year-old Benaiges was a key member of Barcelona’s youth training academy from 1991-2011, coinciding with a generation of the club’s best players, including Andres Iniesta and Xavi.
After stints abroad with foreign clubs, Benaiges returned to Barcelona last year following the return of Joan Laporta to its presidency. He resigned last week reportedly for personal reasons.
“I don’t have any information that there have been any type of these episodes, although that does not mean that they did not happen,” Xavi said at a routine pre-match news conference.
“He was my coach and I never had any suspicions. I am very surprised and stunned, I didn’t expect it.
“This is a very delicate, very complicated issue,” Xavi added.
“I have spoken with the coaching staff because we love Albert Benaiges very much. It has surprised us a lot. We always had an excellent relationship, and he left a very good legacy. It is the justice system that will have to decide,” he added.
Barcelona has yet to comment publicly on the investigation.