Ex-England star’s allegation adds to child abuse shame
Le Tissier recounts ‘really disgusting’ massage session with youth coach
One-time England forward Matt Le Tissier became the highest profile ex-player to allege inappropriate behavior involving children, saying he received “a really disgusting” naked massage from a former Southampton youth soccer coach.
Le Tissier, who won eight caps, claimed he was given a massage as a youth player during which “everyone was kind of naked” and said coach Bob Higgins’ behavior made him feel uncomfortable.
“It’s very, very wrong,” the 48-year-old Le Tissier told the BBC, as English soccer reels from a series of allegations of sexual abuse by coaches, mostly in the 1970s and 1980s.
“You kind of look back and think that it was wrong but, as a young boy, you kind of saw everybody else doing it and you thought, ‘Oh right. Is this normal?’
“Looking back, it’s really disgusting, I think.”
Le Tissier said he hoped the courage shown by several former players going public with abuse allegations in recent weeks will result in justice being served.
“I’d like to think that the bravery of the boys that have come out will encourage everyone else that experienced those kinds of things and that the people that were the perpetrators get brought to justice,” he said.
Le Tissier later tweeted: “For the record, I’ve never felt like I’ve been abused. Still don’t. Please don’t feel sorry for me, I’m all good. Just stated what happened.”
Higgins denies any wrongdoing. He was acquitted of sexual abuse charges in 1992 and was linked to abuse again in a 1997 television documentary.
In 1989, the Football League, police and social services warned he could be a danger to children.
In the past week, Higgins was accused by several former Southampton players.
Ex-Saints manager Harry Redknapp, who was not in charge when Higgins was at the club, criticized the Football Association for not banning him.
The FA has launched an internal review into whether the organization was aware at the time of the allegations.
Chairman Greg Clarke said it is the biggest crisis he can remember for the FA.
Twenty police forces are conducting investigations after being contacted by former players, and helplines for victims have been set up across Britain.
A source told The Observer last weekend the allegations concern 55 professional and non-league clubs.
The Police Service of Northern Ireland said on Wednesday it arrested 71-year-old Jim McCafferty, who worked for Scottish club Celtic in the 1990s and for junior teams in West Lothian in the 1980s.
McCafferty has subsequently been charged with sexual activity with a child and is due to appear in a Belfast court on Thursday.
He gave himself up just days after he told the Irish Mirror he had abused young boys over a 20-year period.
McCafferty said he talked to the newspaper because he wished to “cleanse his soul”.
The BBC reported the FA will interview Dario Gradi over claims in 1974 that thethen Chelsea assistant manager persuaded a youth player and his parents not to pursue allegations of sexual abuse by chief scout and serial abuser Eddie Heath.
Gradi was soccer director at Crewe Alexandra and manager from 1983 to 2007, overlapping the time Barry Bennell was youth coach at the club.
Bennell, jailed three times for sex abuse, was charged with eight sexual offenses last week.
Gradi, a respected figure in the English game for nurturing youth talent, said he did nothing wrong and knew nothing until 1994, by which time he cooperated fully with the authorities.
In other developments, The Daily Telegraph reported the late Chris Gieler has been accused of abuse of apprentices and schoolboys at Queens Park Rangers over three decades when he was its youth development officer.
Athletics too came into the spotlight.
Former aspiring athlete Roy Messenger, 55, told the Telegraph he was raped 50 times between the ages of nine and 12 by Aubrey Harris — the man known as Oxford’s ‘Mr Athletics’ — including at the track where Roger Bannister broke the four-minute barrier for the mile.
Harris died in the 1980s.
You kind of look back and think that it was wrong but, as a young boy, you kind of saw everybody else doing it and you thought, ‘Oh right. Is this normal?’.” Matt Le Tissier, on alleged inappropriate behavior at Southampton