January 16, 2004

LONDON (AP) — Here’s a fashion tip sure to make female soccer players uncomfortable: The sport’s chief suggests they slip into something a little tighter on the field.

FIFA president Sepp Blatter said women should consider wearing more revealing uniforms, such as skimpier shorts, to bring more attention to the game. At least one top player called the advice “ridiculous” and “irresponsible.”

Blatter said women’s soccer needs different sponsors from the men’s game and should try to attract fashion and cosmetics companies by featuring “more feminine uniforms.”

“Tighter shorts, for example,” Blatter told the Swiss newspaper SonntagsBlick. “In volleyball the women also wear other uniforms than the men. Pretty women are playing football today. Excuse me for saying that.”

Brandi Chastain created the signature moment at the 1999 Women’s World Cup when she removed her shirt to reveal a sports bra, celebrating her winning kick in the U.S. victory over China in the title game.

The suggestion by Blatter raises an issue that has confronted women’s sports — particularly tennis and golf — for some time. Do the players need to draw on their sex appeal to make their game more appealing to a mostly male audience, or should their athletic achievements stand on their own?

England goalkeeper Pauline Cope called Blatter’s advice “typical of a bloke.”

“To say we should play football in hot pants is plain ridiculous,” she said. “It’s completely irresponsible for a man in a powerful position to make comments like this.”

FIFA spokesman Andreas Herren said Friday that Blatter never mentioned the word “hot pants.”

“The remarks were by no means meant to be offensive — not at all,” Herren said. “Whatever he said, it was more a general remark, ‘Let’s take a look at that.’ But it’s not the ultimate recipe to salvage the women’s game because he went on to say women’s football has established itself and it has a future.”

Swiss captain Evelyn Zimmermann and Norwegian players Lise Klaveness and Solveig Gulbrandsen also spurned Blatter’s fashion tip.

“You can’t compare us with volleyball players and, apart from everything else, those shorts are uncomfortable,” Zimmermann said.

Klaveness said soccer is about sport, not sex.

“If the crowd only wants to come and watch models then they should go and buy a copy of Playboy,” she said.

Added Gulbrandsen: “If I wanted to wear a bikini, I would have chosen to play beach volleyball.”

Marianne Spacey, manager of the London team Fulham Ladies, said Blatter’s comments should be taken seriously because of his position, but some of her players were amused.

“It does surprise me because people might actually listen because he’s such a powerful person in the game of football,” Spacey said. “For people in the women’s game, it’s caused uproar and it provided a few chuckles in training, that’s for sure.”

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