Sun, Nov 12, 2017 - Page 10 News List

Solo says Blatter ‘grabbed my ass’

AFP and AP, LISBON

Abby Wambach, left, is presented with the FIFA Women’s World Player of the Year award by Hope Solo, center, and FIFA president Sepp Blatter during the FIFA Ballon d’Or Gala on Jan. 7, 2013, in Zurich, Switzerland.

Photo: AP

US women’s soccer star Hope Solo accused former FIFA president Sepp Blatter of sexual assault on Friday, claiming he groped her backside at the 2013 Ballon d’Or ceremony.

The 36-year-old Solo, her country’s standout goalkeeper, said the 81-year-old Blatter pounced as she was about to present an award to her teammate Abby Wambach.

“Sepp Blatter grabbed my ass, it was a few years ago at the Ballon d’Or ceremony just before I got on stage,” Solo told Portuguese newspaper Expresso.

A spokesman for Blatter, however, said the accusation was “ridiculous.”

Solo, a World Cup winner and two-time Olympic champion, made the allegations on the sidelines of the Web Summit in Lisbon.

Sexual harassment at the hands of male officials is a common problem in women’s soccer, she said.

“I have seen this all of my career and I would like to see more athletes speak about their experiences,” Solo said.

“It’s out of control, not just in Hollywood, but everywhere,” she added in reference to the firestorm of sexual harassment allegations in entertainment, politics and sport ever since the scandal involving Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein unfolded.

Solo has been dogged by a number of off-the-field controversies. Notably, a domestic violence case stemming from a 2014 altercation at a family member’s home in Washington state.

Solo anchored the US team in goal during its 2015 Women’s World Cup championship run, allowing just three goals in seven games with five shutouts during the tournament.

For her career, Solo has made 202 total appearances with the national team, with 153 wins and an international-record 102 shutouts.

Solo’s tenure with the national team ended following last year’s Olympics in Brazil, when the US were ousted by Sweden in the quarter-finals. Afterward, Solo called the Swedish team “cowards” for their defensive style of play.

She was suspended from the team shortly thereafter and has not returned. Blatter was suspended from office and banned from soccer for six years following allegations of a widespread corruption scandal that came to light in 2015. Both US and Swiss officials cooperated in the investigation, which is ongoing, and more than 40 people have been indicted.

Blatter has also had a history of what many consider to be sexist behavior concerning the women’s game. US forward Alex Morgan has said that Blatter failed to recognize her at the annual award event in 2012, even though she was one of three nominees for the women’s Player of the Year.

Blatter also famously argued in 2004 that players could boost the popularity of the women’s game by wearing tighter shorts.

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