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Ex-Barcelona soccer coach in abuse claims

A former director of Barcelona football club’s youth teams has been accused of sexually abusing dozens of former pupils at a school where he also worked.

Authorities in northeastern Spain said they were opening an investigation after the ARA newspaper reported more than 60 former students had come forward to detail the alleged actions of Albert Benaiges while he was a PE teacher at a state school in Barcelona.

One former student has made a formal complaint to police, the paper reports, with others expected to follow.

ARA said Benaiges has denied any wrongdoing.

“I have never hurt anyone and if I have done it hasn’t been intentionally,” Benaiges told ARA. “My conscience is very clear.”

No former Barcelona players appear to have have joined the accusations.

Benaiges, 71, was a key member of Barcelona’s youth training academy from 1991 to 2011, coinciding with a generation of the club’s best players, including Andres Iniesta and current head coach Xavi Hernandez.

After stints abroad, Benaiges returned to Barcelona last year following the return of Joan Laporta to the club’s presidency. He resigned last week.

“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 told reporters.

“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.

“It is the justice system that will have to decide.”

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