...and here’s RTE’s best Hope for Irish World Cup glory

The Irish Mail on Sunday - - RUSSIA 2018 - By Ni­cola Byrne

IT’S no se­cret that RTÉ’s tired male-dom­i­nated pun­ditry team needed spic­ing up. But sta­tion bosses are hop­ing they haven’t bit­ten off more than they can chew with the ar­rival of glam­orous US soc­cer star Hope Solo to their World Cup panel. Mon­trose in­sid­ers leaked this week­end that the sta­tion had beaten off broad­cast­ers in­clud­ing the BBC, to se­cure the 36-year-old’s ser­vices in join­ing.

They’re now hop­ing they can keep the for­mer World Cup star in line dur­ing the four-week tour­na­ment which kicks off in Rus­sia on Thurs­day.

Solo was no­tably ab­sent from RTÉ’s pho­to­call to launch its World Cup cov­er­age this week. And the de­tails of what games she will be cov­er­ing and when she will be in Ire­land are ap­par­ently still be­ing ironed out.

But RTÉ lawyers will be hop­ing she can keep her propen­sity for at­tract­ing trou­ble in check. In 2010, Hope’s com­ments about ‘crooked ref­er­ees’ in the US leagues, earned her a $2,500 fine and a 30-day sus­pen­sion.

As it turned out, this was at the milder end of the scale in a whole cat­a­logue of mis­de­meanours notched up dur­ing her ca­reer.

‘It’s a great coup for us,’ an RTÉ pro­ducer told the MoS. ‘But on the other hand, she seems to cause trou­ble wher­ever she goes. We want some trou­ble but not a lot.’

Hope is one of the big­gest names in women’s foot­ball, hav­ing won two Olympic medals and a World Cup in her 16 years with the US team. But she has been in the news as much for her off-the-pitch an­tics.

Dur­ing the 2012 Olympic Games, Hope, who played with the US women’s team in Lon­don, raised eye­brows by claim­ing that there was a cul­ture of sex and drink­ing in the Olympic

Vil­lage. She told ESPN mag­a­zine: ‘I’ve seen peo­ple hav­ing sex right out in the open. On the grass, be­tween build­ings, peo­ple are get­ting down and dirty.’

In June 2014 she was ar­rested for al­legedly beat­ing up her half-sis­ter and nephew while drunk. The case was even­tu­ally dropped. There were more head­lines that year when the foot­baller was the vic­tim of hack­ers who stole some of her per­sonal pho­tos and posted them on­line.

In 2015, she was sus­pended from the US na­tional team af­ter her hus­band, Amer­i­can foot­ball player Jer­ramy Stevens, was stopped for drink driv­ing. The car he was driv­ing, and in which Solo was a pas­sen­ger, was on loan from US Soc­cer. She was dropped for 30 days. In 2016, her play­ing ca­reer ended.

She may no longer play but she con­tin­ues to gen­er­ate con­tro­versy. This week she sparked ou­trage in US foot­ball when she said the coun­try was not fit to host the 2026 World Cup fi­nals

Ahead of next week’s vote on who will be awarded the tour­na­ment, Hope said: ‘I can’t say it should be awarded to Morocco but I don’t think it should go to the United States, and that’s hard to say.’

Re­act­ing to her re­marks, one US com­men­ta­tor said drily that even when Hope makes some sense, many tune out sim­ply be­cause it is her who is do­ing the talk­ing. Some­how, it seems un­likely that Irish TV view­ers will be tuning out.

New sigN­iNg: US soc­cer star Hope Solo will join Dun­phy et al at RTÉ

stal­warts: Dar­ragh Maloney with Damien Duff, Didi Ha­mann and Richie Sadlier

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