Ex-Fifa president Sepp Blatter has been accused of sexually assaulting Hope Solo, the USA women’s football team goalkeeper, at Fifa’s Ballon d’Or awards ceremony in January 2013.
In an interview with the Portuguese newspaper Expresso, Hope Solo, 36, claimed Sepp Blatter grabbed her bum at the glittering Fifa’s annual football awards, seconds before they both went on stage.
Solo and Sepp Blatter had presented the Fifa women’s world player of the year award to Soho’s colleague, striker Abby Wambach.
Talking to Expresso about sexual harassment in general, which Solo says is “rampant” in sport, she said:
“I had Sepp Blatter grab my ass. It was at the Ballon d’Or, right before I went on stage. [Sexual harassment] has been normalised.
Expanding on the alleged incident, Solo told the Guardian that she had to compose herself immediately afterwards to concentrate on making her speech and giving the presentation to Wambach.
“I was in shock and completely thrown off,” Solo said. “I had to quickly pull myself together to present my team-mate with the biggest award of her career and celebrate with her in that moment, so I completely shifted my focus to Abby.”
Solo is the most capped goalkeeper in US football history with 202 appearances, including in the 2008 and 2012 Olympic- and 2015 World Cup-winning teams. She spoke out about sexual harassment in sport, following the revelations about the Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein.
Asked why she had not spoken out about the Blatter incident before, Solo said she always tries to confront directly people, including team-mates, when it happens.
With Blatter, she said as it happened seconds before she went on stage, she was unable to confront him, did not have an opportunity to do so when they left the stage and has never seen him since.
81 year old Sepp Blatter won five elections as president of Fifa from 1998 until 2015, until he was banned by the organisation for ethics breaches.
Blatter, contacted via his spokesman, responded to Solo’s recollection by denying that the incident took place.
“This allegation is ridiculous,” he said.