Ex-Eng­land star’s al­le­ga­tion adds to child abuse shame

Le Tissier re­counts ‘re­ally dis­gust­ing’ mas­sage ses­sion with youth coach

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - SPORTS - By AGENCE FRANCEPRESSE in Lon­don

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

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