Hope Solo ac­cuses Blatter of sex­ual as­sault at Bal­lon d’Or

The 36-year-old made this sen­sa­tional rev­e­la­tion in an in­ter­view with a Por­tuguese news­pa­per.

The Sunday Guardian - - Sports - JACK AUSTIN WASH­ING­TON

For­mer Fifa pres­i­dent Sepp Blatter has been ac­cused of sex­u­ally as­sault­ing Hope Solo, the USA women’s foot­ball team goal­keeper, at the Bal­lon d’Or awards cer­e­mony in Jan­uary 2013.

The 36-year-old claimed she “had Sepp Blatter grab my ass” at the awards event, but Blatter, via a spoke­man, de­nied the al­le­ga­tions, call­ing them “ridicu­lous”.

Solo pre­sented the award for Fifa women’s player of the year that year on stage along­side Blatter to her col­league Abby Wam­bachafter the USA won gold at the Olympics in Lon­don in 2012.

In the in­ter­view with Por­tuguese news­pa­per Ex­presso, Solo claimed that the sex­ual as­sault had hap­pened just mo­ments be­fore the pair went on stage to­gether to present the award.

“I had Sepp Blatter grab my ass,” she said. “It was at the Bal­lon d’Or, right be­fore I went on stage. [Sex­ual ha­rass­ment] has been nor­malised.

“For years, in the past, fe­male play­ers date and end up mar­ry­ing their col­lege coaches, which ob­vi­ously a coach should not be do­ing, es­pe­cially with a young player.

“I’ve seen it not just with coaches. I’ve seen it with train­ers, doc­tors and our press of­fi­cers ... I’ve seen it amongst play­ers in the locker room. It’s ram­pant.

“I’m ac­tu­ally very dis­ap­pointed with the women who haven’t spo­ken about it in the sports world … I wish more women, es­pe­cially in foot­ball, would speak against it, about the ex­pe­ri­ences, be­cause some of those peo­ple still work [in foot­ball].”

When asked why she had never brought it up pre­vi­ously, Solo ad­mit­ted it is be­cause she usu­ally like to take it up with the per­son di­rectly, rather than flush it out to the press.

“I speak out di­rectly [with peo­ple] when things like that hap­pen. In other cases, for in­stance, I’ve told my team­mates: ‘Don’t ever f***ing touch me! Don’t do it’. It has been in the show­ers, it’s been in the locker room... I usu­ally speak di­rectly with the per­son.

“In the case of Sepp Blatter, I went on the stage, I was ner­vous for the pre­sen­ta­tion... It was the Bal­lon d’Or I was pre­sent­ing.

“Af­ter that I didn’t see him, and that was kind of bad. I didn’t get to tell him di­rectly ‘Don’t ever touch me!’ That’s the way I’ve al­ways han­dled things. Di­rectly.”

When she ex­panded on the al­leged in­ci­dent, Solo told the Guardian: “I was in shock and com­pletely thrown off. I had to quickly pull my­self to­gether to present my team­mate with the big­gest award of her ca­reer and cel­e­brate with her in that mo­ment, so I com­pletely shifted my fo­cus to Abby.

“For years, in the past, fe­male play­ers date and end up mar­ry­ing their col­lege coaches, which ob­vi­ously a coach should not be do­ing, es­pe­cially with a young player,” she said. “I’ve seen it not just with coaches. I’ve seen it with train­ers, doc­tors and our press of­fi­cers ... I’ve seen it amongst play­ers in the locker room. It’s ram­pant.

“I’m ac­tu­ally very dis­ap­pointed with the women who haven’t spo­ken about it in the sports world … I wish more women, es­pe­cially in foot­ball, would speak against it, about the ex­pe­ri­ences, be­cause some of those peo­ple still work [in foot­ball].”

It is not the first time Blatter, who won five elec­tions as Fifa pres­i­dent be­tween 1998 and 2015 be­fore be­ing banned for ethic breaches, has faced crit­i­cism for his treat­ment of women. In 2004 he came un­der pres­sure af­ter a sug­ges­tion that fe­male play­ers could wear “tighter shorts” like “they do in vol­ley­ball” to make the game more ap­peal­ing to a male au­di­ence, while in 2013 he called a fe­male mem­ber of Fifa’s ex­ec­u­tive com­mit­tee “good,.

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