Boca Juniors' Colombian footballer Sebastián Villa will no longer play for the club after he was convicted Friday of gender violence against his former partner.
Villa, 27, was handed a suspended prison sentence of two years and a month behind bars after being found guilty of the crimes of "coercive threats and minor injuries with gender violence.” He is accused of assaulting his ex-girlfriend, fellow Colombian Daniela Cortes, in April 2020, at a home they shared on the outskirts of Buenos Aires.
The court also imposed “rules of conduct” for Villa to comply with over a two-year period. He is banned from contacting the victim, abusing narcotic substances and must undergo “psychological treatment and attend workshops against gender violence."
Lawyers working for Villa, who denies the allegations against him, said in comments reported by local outlets on Friday that their client will appeal.
In a statement issued Friday evening, Boca Juniors announced that Villa would no longer play for the first team. The club does not intend to rescind the player’s contract, however, and will see if there is interest from overseas club.
“After being sentenced to two years and one month in prison (suspended) for the crimes of minor injuries and threats against his ex-partner, Daniela Cortés, Sebastián Villa will not wear the Boca Juniors shirt again,” said the club in a statement.
Local reports say the player will still be able to train at Boca’s facilities, with the club fearful of revoking access as they could be found in breach of local labour laws.
The club’s authorities have been criticised for not suspending the player earlier when the case went to trial.
The incident took place on April 27, 2020 at a house in Canning, on the southern outskirts of Buenos Aires, though Cortes claims she was a victim of abuse on several occasions between 2018 and 2020.
During hearings in court, Villa proclaimed his innocence and said that when the alleged incident took place, he had called then-Boca coach Miguel Ángel Russo and told him that she had assaulted him.
Cortés, who addressed the court via videoconference from Medellín, where she now lives, said that the abuse worsened during the Covid pandemic, when they lived together at a house in a private neighbourhood on the outskirts of the capital. The player had started to “drink alcohol and became violent, more and more every day,” she told the judges.
The victim said in her statement that the footballer had “hit me in the forehead, kicked me in the stomach, in the leg, in the thigh” when he allegedly attacked her.
The woman added: "After he left [the house], I spoke to my parents and that is when I decided to make a public complaint, because I was afraid for my family and for my daughter," the result of a previous relationship.
Villa’s conviction was announced on Friday, a day before the eighth anniversary of the first Ni Una Menos anti-gender violence march. Last year, Argentina recorded 252 femicides, one more than in the previous year, according to government data.