This day in football history
On 16 January 2004, former FIFA President Sepp Blatter drew criticism for suggesting that female footballers could increase their appeal by wearing, among other things, tighter shorts.
During a discussion on ways to improve the popularity of women’s football, Blatter said “Let the women play in more feminine clothes like they do in volleyball. They could, for example, have tighter shorts.” He went on to say “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?”
Predictably, the response from female footballers was not enthusiastic. England goalkeeper Pauline Cope remarked that Blatter “doesn’t know what he is talking about. We don’t use a lighter ball for one thing, and to say we should play football in hotpants is plain ridiculous.” Fulham manager Marieanne Spacey pointed out that “Ten years ago, we did play in tighter shorts. Nobody paid attention then.”
The incident was neither the first nor last time Blatter received criticism. As soon as he took the post of FIFA president in 2002, rumors immediately surfaced claiming he had bribed his way to the office. He later came under fire for saying that homosexuals worried about traveling to Qatar for the 2022 World Cup should “refrain from any sexual activities” while there.
Despite the controversies, Blatter won re-election in 2015 to serve a fifth term, but resigned in June 2015 in the midst of a FIFA corruption investigation led by the United States.