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Sepp Blatter calls Hope Solo’s grope claims ‘absurd’

  • Solo is on the US women's soccer team and has won gold at the Olympics twice
  • In 2013 she presented the prestigious Ballon d'Or to a teammate with Blatter
  • But just before they went on stage, she said, he 'grabbed my a**'
  • He has now swung back against the statements, calling them 'absurd'
  • Blatter has a long history of questionable remarks and is accused of corruption

By James Wilkinson For Dailymail.com

Published: 08:23 EST, 11 November 2017 | Updated: 08:23 EST, 11 November 2017

The former president of the world's premiere soccer organization has denied claims that he 'grabbed' US star player Hope Solo's buttocks before a major awards show.

On Friday Hope Solo, the 36-year-old two-time Olympic gold medalist, told a Portuguese newspaper that Sepp Blatter, 81, groped her before they were to present one of the prestigious Ballon d'Or Awards in 2013.

But on Saturday, Blatter – who has a history of sexist remarks and has been accused of corruption – told AFP that the claim was 'absurd'.

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Hope Solo (left) says that Sepp Blatter (right) grabbed her 'a**' just before this awards ceremony in 2013. Blatter says that the claims are 'absurd'

Hope Solo (left) says that Sepp Blatter (right) grabbed her 'a**' just before this awards ceremony in 2013. Blatter says that the claims are 'absurd'

Solo, a two-time gold winner at the Olympics, and said she was left 'in shock' by the Fifa president's alleged gropeSolo, a two-time gold winner at the Olympics, and said she was left 'in shock' by the Fifa president's alleged grope

Solo, a two-time gold winner at the Olympics, and said she was left 'in shock' by the Fifa president's alleged grope

The player told Portuguese paper Tribuna Expresso that she was at the awards ceremony to present the female player of the year award to USA teammate Abby Wambach.

Blatter, who resigned from Fifa in 2015 amid a bribery scandal, grabbed her 'right before I went on stage,' she alleged.

Representatives of the former Fifa president were quick to deny the claim telling newspapers: 'This allegation is ridiculous.'

She later elaborated on the claim to The Guardian, saying: 'I was in shock and completely thrown off.

'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.'

Footage from the night shows Solo seemingly stuttering over her words – possibly through anger or discomfort – and glancing repeatedly at Blatter.

Solo - seen presenting the female player of the year award to Abby Wambach - said she had to swallow her anger and press on so as not to spoil her friend's big momentSolo - seen presenting the female player of the year award to Abby Wambach - said she had to swallow her anger and press on so as not to spoil her friend's big moment

Solo – seen presenting the female player of the year award to Abby Wambach – said she had to swallow her anger and press on so as not to spoil her friend's big moment

Solo told Expresso that she'd never brought up the issue before because usually 'I speak out directly [with people] when things like that happen.

'In other cases, for instance, I've told my teammates: "Don't ever f**king touch me! Don't do it". It has been in the showers, it's been in the locker room… I usually speak directly with the person.

'In the case of Sepp Blatter, I went on the stage, I was nervous for the presentation… It was the Ballon D'Or I was presenting.

'After that I didn't see him, and that was kind of bad. I didn't get to tell him directly "Don't ever touch me!" That's the way I've always handled things. Directly.'

Solo added that she had seen sexual harassment in sports 'throughout my entire career.'

'And I wish more female athletes would speak out about their own experiences,' she said. 'It's rampant, it's not just in Hollywood, it's probably all over the place.'

Blatter has been accused of making sexist remarks for decades.

In 2004, Blatter proposed that the practical mid-thigh shorts worn by female soccer players should be replaced with hotpants to boost interest in the game.

'Let the women play in more feminine clothes like they do in volleyball,' he said.

Blatter is seen here talking to Solo in 2011, two years before the alleged groping. He has a history of making sexist remarks to female Fifa executivesBlatter is seen here talking to Solo in 2011, two years before the alleged groping. He has a history of making sexist remarks to female Fifa executives

Blatter is seen here talking to Solo in 2011, two years before the alleged groping. He has a history of making sexist remarks to female Fifa executives

He continued: 'They could, for example, have tighter shorts. Female players are pretty, if you excuse me for saying so, and they already have some different rules to men – such as playing with a lighter ball.

'That decision was taken to create a more female aesthetic, so why not do it in fashion?'

Female players from around the globe spoke out against Blatter's remarks, with some noting that female players do not, in fact, play with a lighter ball.

In 2013, he referred to a female candidate for the executive committee of Fifa 'good, and good looking'.

And soon after that, while addressing the female members of the committee, he said: 'Are there ladies in the room? Say something! You are always speaking at home, now you can speak here.'

Blatter became Fifa's president in 1998; in the years following, the organization allegedly engaged in money laundering and took bribes to decide the location of the World Cup.

He was ousted in June 2015 after Fifa's ethics committee found him guilty of accepting an improper two million Swiss franc ($2.1 million) payment from Michel Platini, then chief of the Union of European Football Associations (UEFA).

Blatter was banned from the sport in December 2016 for eight years, later reduced to six.

Solo is seen here playing in 2016. In 2004, Blatter suggested switching the practical shorts like the ones worn here for 'tighter shorts' like 'they do in volleyball'Solo is seen here playing in 2016. In 2004, Blatter suggested switching the practical shorts like the ones worn here for 'tighter shorts' like 'they do in volleyball'

Solo is seen here playing in 2016. In 2004, Blatter suggested switching the practical shorts like the ones worn here for 'tighter shorts' like 'they do in volleyball'

He was not indicted in a US-led investigation, unlike 42 other Fifa officials, 24 of whom have pleaded guilty, and three of whom went to trial on Monday.

On October 16, Solo joined in the #MeToo hashtag campaign, designed to highlight the breadth of sexual harassment occurring to women across society.

In an Instagram post, she said: 'For the past few days, I have been thinking about all the uncomfortable situations myself and/or my teammates have experienced throughout the years with trainers, doctors, coaches, executives and even teammates.'

'From inappropriate comments, unwanted advances and grabs of the ass to coaches and GMs and even press officers speaking about players "t*ts" and physical appearance, sexual harassment is rampant in the sports world,' she continued.

'I always felt I'd "handled it" and stood up for myself in those situations, but there were never any consequences for the perpetrators. That needs to change.

'Silence will not change the world!'

Solo has been a professional footballer since 2003. On June 21, 2014, she was charged with two misdemeanor counts of assault against her half-sister and nephew.

The soccer player said she had been defending herself from her six-foot-nine-inch nephew.

She sat out one game and in January 2015 the charges were dropped due to the alleged victims' lack of cooperation with police.

But the charges were reinstated on appeal in October 2016; it's not known when a trial might begin.

In October, Solo posted this message on Instagram, alongside a longer message talking about the sexual harassment she had felt in her careerIn October, Solo posted this message on Instagram, alongside a longer message talking about the sexual harassment she had felt in her career

In October, Solo posted this message on Instagram, alongside a longer message talking about the sexual harassment she had felt in her career

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