Former soccer club press officer wins battle against coach in sexual abuse case

My behavior began to change, and I no longer felt like going to work. A week after he joined the club, I started parking in a different spot to avoid him. I felt constantly terrified of running into Jorge and getting raped. Every time I left my office, I trembled at the thought of him lurking in the hallway.

  • 1 week ago
  • May 12, 2024
6 min read
Florencia Marco, overseeing press operations for the Boca Juniors female team in Quito. | Photo courtesy of Florencia Marco Florencia Marco, overseeing press operations for the Boca Juniors female team in Quito. | Photo courtesy of Florencia Marco
journalist’s notes
interview subject
Florencia Marco is a dedicated professional hailing from Suipacha, province of Buenos Aires, Argentina. Her journey in sports communication started in 2011 when she joined Club Atlético Boca Juniors, initially focusing on the press operations of the male soccer team. As the female team gained prominence, she assumed dual responsibilities, eventually becoming the primary liaison for both teams. In recent years, she has spearheaded the operations of the female team, showcasing her leadership and dedication. Currently on unpaid leave, Florencia remains affiliated with the club, where unfortunately she experienced mistreatment by the former coach, Jorge Martinez, starting in January 2022.
background information
Jorge Martínez, a former soccer player with a notable career spanning clubs such as Boca, River, Independiente, and the Argentina National Team, faced legal repercussions for simple sexual abuse. Serving as the technical director of the Boca women’s soccer team, Martínez was convicted by the 22nd Oral Court of the city of Buenos Aires. The court’s ruling included one year of suspended imprisonment, a restraining order, three years of community service, and mandatory registration in the genetic bank of abusers. During the trial, several club directors, including former players Jorge Bermudez and Marcelo Delgado, testified on behalf of the accused. Despite the evidence presented, they denied knowledge of the allegations raised by Florencia Marco. Consequently, at the request of prosecutor Marcelo Martínez Burgo, a separate case for false testimony was initiated against them. Source: Infobae.

BUENOS AIRES, Argentina — For 11 years, I worked at Club Atlético Boca Juniors, an Argentine professional sports club. It became my second home and my daily life revolved around whatever the club needed. Serving as the press officer for the women’s soccer team, I loved my work, but in January 2022, everything changed.

That summer, a new coach arrived named Jorge Martinez. Jorge had played soccer for Boca. As soon as I met him, a chill ran down my spine. His intense and lustful gaze made me uncomfortable from the start. I said nothing that day, choosing instead to give him the benefit of the doubt. Perhaps, I thought, I misunderstood.

As Jorge closed in on me, little by little, I experienced abuse in the very place I felt safe for so long. My life came to a standstill. I filed a complaint and was put on leave. Through the justice system, the courts delivered a verdict of guilty. Finding justice brought a sigh of relief and allowed me to resume my life with dignity, but it did not erase the two years in which I sunk into a pit of despair, having to rebuild myself completely. I am grateful for the supportive hands that lifted me out of that hole.

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Jorge Martinez sexually harasses former press officer

On Jorge’s second day at work, I noticed the same unsettling intensity in his demeanor from our first meeting. In addition to staring, he spoke inappropriately, extended invitations, and made gestures unrelated to work. Feeling deeply uncomfortable, I talked to others about it. “It happens to me too,” some of the women said.

My behavior began to change, and I no longer felt like going to work. A week after he joined the club, I started parking in a different spot to avoid him. I felt constantly terrified of running into Jorge and getting raped. Every time I left my office, I trembled at the thought of him lurking in the hallway. I changed how I dressed and showed up at the club less and less.

At home, I found no peace. I knew what he did to me, he was likely doing to others. At 34, I felt ashamed to let him control me that way. I knew it was abuse, yet I felt guilty for not speaking up. When I finally sought help from the club’s Gender Department, I encountered excuses and justifications. “He’s just like that,” they said. I felt abandoned and stuck in a cycle that weighed more heavily with each passing day.

Jorge’s comments grew more frequent and inappropriate, and his stares became more intense. One day, he crossed a line, and I felt him touch my backside. When I looked up, he stood there calmly, fully in control, as if he knew he would face no consequences for his abuse. As the day went by, I thought about giving up, leaving everything behind, and running away. Yet, I resisted leaving this man in charge of a team of women, including minors. He was like a wolf among sheep. Someone had to act.

Judicial process proves challenging, courtroom filled with uncertainty

At the beginning of 2023, I formally filed an internal complaint with the club. The response seemed unusual. They put me on leave while allowing Jorge to keep his job. Part of me anticipated this outcome, so I built up a savings, expecting to lose my job. Frustrated and unaware of another way forward, I filed a complaint for sexual abuse with the courts.

My phone buzzed nonstop with incoming messages from players at the club expressing gratitude. I learned that, because of my complaint, they removed Jorge Martinez from his position. I finally slept peacefully again, knowing he had no access to the women on the team. However, the issue continued to haunt me every day.

For a year, I dealt with the ups and downs of the judicial process while engaging my healing journey. In the countryside, with my horses, I gradually regained trust in myself and others. Being around the animals became pivotal in pulling me back from the emotional hole I fell into. I continue to work on myself, and I’m not fully over it, but today I am in a better place.

In April 2024, the time came for the trial and sentencing. I tried to walk calmly, but inside, my emotions churned. Anxiety tightened my chest. Sharing a space with my abuser in the courtroom filled me with uncertainty. To make it easier, I imagined a thick wall between us, blocking any contact. I refused to look at him.

His lawyer attempted to undermine me by presenting photos of me and suggesting everything was a lie. At one point, he showed a photo of me smiling at a club’s year-end party, an event Jorge also attended. “If I had wanted to abuse her, what better context than that party,” he said, using twisted logic. My friends and family erupted in shouts and insults. The atmosphere boiled over, but I remained calm, hiding the whirlwind of emotions inside me.

Judge declares Jorge Martinez guilty of abuse: “Tears streamed down my face uncontrollably”

When the judge delivered the final verdict, declaring Jorge Martinez guilty of abuse, tears streamed down my face uncontrollably. “It’s over,” I thought, as I felt a sense of peace for the first time in two years. Finally, someone listened to me, and this chapter of my story closed. I hugged my mom, sister, friends, and lawyer. More than a celebration, it felt like a relief.

The accumulated tension crashed down on me, and for two weeks after the sentencing, I remained bedridden with a fever, trying to process everything I experienced. I look ahead now, knowing I need to find a new job. I cannot imagine returning to Boca, a club where everyone turned their backs on me. Even today, Martinez still draws a salary as a coach, despite being a convicted abuser.

As I walk through the square, I see a little girl playing ball with her mom and dad, and I feel proud. The outreach work we did over the years to grow women’s soccer enabled more girls to take up the sport. I feel responsible for ensuring that the girls who play in the parks today can join clubs that are safe places. My fight since the abuse isn’t just for me, it’s for them too.

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