Sepp Blatter, former head of FIFA, the world football (soccer) governing body, said Saturday that claims by US women’s goalkeeper Hope Solo – a World Cup winner and two-time Olympic champion – that he had grabbed her backside were “absurd”.
Hope Solo told Expresso newspaper that then-FIFA president Blatter had sexually harassed her at the 2013 Ballon d’Or ceremony.
The 36-year-old Solo, her country’s standout goalkeeper, claimed 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 said.
However Blatter, 81, said the accusations were “absurd and ridiculous” according to media reports.
Solo made the allegations on the sidelines of the Web Summit being held in Lisbon.
She said that sexual harassment at the hands of male officials was a common problem in women’s football.
“I have seen this all of my career and I would like to see more athletes speak about their experiences,” said Solo.
“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 since the scandal involving Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein unfolded.
Solo made reference to the fact that female players sometimes married their US college coaches “which obviously a coach should not be doing, especially with a young player.”
Blatter was president of FIFA from 1998 to 2015 until he was banned for corruption.
The Swiss official ran FIFA with an iron hand and oversaw a period in which football’s premier tournament was hosted in Asia for the first time and he paved the way for it to be held in Qatar in 2022.
After the corruption allegations emerged, FIFA banned Blatter from the sport for eight years, a term later reduced to six years after appeal.