American goalkeeper Hope Solo accused former FIFA President Sepp Blatter of sexual assault at the Ballon d’Or awards ceremony in January 2013 in an interview with Expresso, a Portuguese newspaper.
Speaking in Lisbon for the Web Summit, Solo granted Expresso an interview about gender equality and sexual harassment. The newspaper published an excerpt from that conversation on Friday.
In the interview, Solo said she “had Sepp Blatter grab my ass” before she went on stage to present the 2012 FIFA World Player of the Year award to teammate Abby Wambach.
Solo, 36, said she continued on stage to present the award.
“In the case of Sepp Blatter, I went on the stage, I was nervous for the presentation,” she told Expresso. “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.”
A representative for Solo confirmed that the quotes attributed to Solo in Expresso are accurate. The representative spoke to USA TODAY Sports on condition of anonymity because the representative was not authorized to comment publicly.
Through his spokesman, Blatter told The Guardian that “this allegation is ridiculous” and denied that it happened.
Speaking more broadly about sexual harassment, Solo told Expresso that it is “rampant” in the sport and that she hoped more women would speak out about it.
“I'm actually very disappointed with the women who haven't spoken about it in the sports world,” she said. “Yes, everybody has (the right to make) their individual decisions, and it is uncomfortable, but I wish more women, especially in football, would speak against it, about their experiences, because some of those people still work there and some of the players still act in these behaviors. I had some bad experiences with players who are still on the team. I think it is important to acknowledge that this doesn't just happen with the powerful white men. It can happen all across the board, it can happen between women, it can happen anywhere. We are focused on the powerful white men, because I think that's probably more prevalent, but it can happen anywhere. I've seen that.”
Solo had previously spoken about sexual harassment in a post on Instagram last month with the hashtag #MeToo.
“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,” she wrote on Oct. 16. “From inappropriate comments, unwanted advances and grabs of the ass to coaches and GMs and even press officers speaking about players "tits” and physical appearance, sexual harassment is rampant in the sports world. 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! #MeToo”
Solo made 202 appearances for the U.S. team and holds an international record 102 shutouts. She was part of the U.S. teams that won Olympic gold in 2008 and 2012 as well as the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup.
Blatter, 81, was ousted from FIFA in 2015 and given a six-year ban for violating the code of ethics in authorizing a 2 million Swiss Francs to UEFA president Michel Platini in 2011.