US women’s soccer star accuses ex-FIFA head of sexual assault
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US women’s soccer star accuses ex-FIFA head of sexual assault

Hope Solo says Sepp Blatter grabbed her rear during an awards ceremony in 2013; Blatter calls allegation 'ridiculous'

This file photo taken on June 29, 2015, shows USA goalkeeper Hope Solo at a training session in Montreal ahead of a Women's World Cup match. (AFP Photo/Franck Fife)
This file photo taken on June 29, 2015, shows USA goalkeeper Hope Solo at a training session in Montreal ahead of a Women's World Cup match. (AFP Photo/Franck Fife)

AP — US women’s soccer star Hope Solo told a Portuguese newspaper that former FIFA President Sepp Blatter sexually assaulted her at the Ballon d’Or awards ceremony in 2013.

In an interview published Friday in the newspaper Expresso, Solo said Blatter grabbed her rear end shortly before the two appeared onstage at the annual soccer awards event.

A representative for Solo confirmed Friday to The Associated Press that the report was accurate and said the former goalkeeper for the US women’s national team had no further comment on the matter.

Blatter could not immediately be reached for comment by the AP, but the embattled former head of soccer’s governing body told the Guardian newspaper: “This allegation is ridiculous.”

In this file photo from Jan. 7, 2013, Abby Wambach, left, of the United States is presented the FIFA Women’s World Player of the Year award by Hope Solo, center, goalkeeper of the US team, and FIFA President Sepp Blatter, right, during the FIFA Ballon d’Or Gala held at the Kongresshaus in Zurich, Switzerland. (AP Photo/Keystone, Steffen Schmidt, File)

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 Americans were ousted by Sweden in the quarterfinals. 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.

FIFA’s then president Sepp Blatter delivers a speech at the beginning of the 65th FIFA Congress in Zurich, Switzerland, on May 29, 2015. (AFP/Michael Buholzer)

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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