(Warning: Story contains coarse language)
Former U.S. women's national team goalkeeper Hope Solo says ex-FIFA president Sepp Blatter nonconsensually grabbed her buttocks during the Ballon d'Or ceremony in January 2013.
Solo recounted the incident in an interview with Nelson Marques of Portuguese newspaper Expresso set to be published in full Saturday, saying "I had Sepp Blatter grab my ass ... right before I went on stage" to present an award. Blatter's spokesman told The Guardian's David Conn that Solo's allegation is "ridiculous."
As an increasing number of people speak out against sexual assault and harassment by Hollywood figures, Marques asked Solo if she had ever experienced similar harassment in the world of women's soccer. Solo identified Blatter immediately, then asked her press assistant Melinda Travis if she could tell her story about him before revealing the circumstances of the incident.
She later told Conn: "I was in shock and completely thrown off. I had to quickly pull myself together to present my teammate with the biggest award of her career and celebrate with her in that moment, so I completely shifted my focus to Abby (Wambach)."
When asked by Expresso why she had not spoken about this before, Solo offered: "I speak out directly when things like that happen. In other cases, for instance, I've told my teammates: 'Don't ever fucking 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 also said behavior like Blatter's alleged conduct has "been normalized" in soccer and remarked: "I don't know why more players don't speak out against it."
Blatter was president of FIFA from 1998 to 2015. He's currently serving a six-year ban from all FIFA activities after being suspended by the FIFA Ethics Committee on charges of corruption and a $2-million "disloyal payment" to UEFA president Michel Platini.
Solo, 36, was a long-serving member of the U.S. women's national team until August 2016, when U.S. Soccer terminated her contract and issued a six-month ban for calling Swedish players "cowards" during the 2016 Olympics.