The U.S. women’s soccer team has begun play at the Rio Olympics, and let’s just say that Hope Solo is not a favorite among Brazilian fans. Because of her comments about the Zika virus, the veteran goalkeeper was booed every time she touched the ball Wednesday against New Zealand:
Solo had said that she would “begrudgingly” play in the Olympics, this after initially indicating that she might skip the trip to Brazil over her concerns about the mosquito-borne virus. In May, she said that she would do her best to leave the team hotel only in order to practice or travel to games.
Tweets Solo posted in July, showing her head covered in mosquito netting and packing huge amounts of insect repellent, also went over poorly with some in Brazil.
Women traveling to Brazil, for the Olympics or any other reason, have been warned by medical officials that Zika can cause birth defects. It’s just one of the many pieces of negative publicity Brazil has endured in the run-up to the Games, as problems with infrastructure, crime and pollution have also been widely noted.
Claiming that she spoke to “three different infectious disease doctors and specialists,” Solo said (via the Associated Press), “We prepared ourselves as best as possible, and we got to a level of being as comfortable as we possibly can be.
“I’m wearing mosquito repellent just in case. I know the odds are very small, but you can never be too safe,” she added. “I’m at a point in my life that I just want to be safe.”
Before Wednesday’s game, played in the city of Belo Horizonte, Solo greatly softened her tone, expressing sympathy for Brazil and blaming the “media” in her home country.
“It’s a little bit unfortunate because I think the American media has been really tough on people of Brazil,” Solo said. “I feel a little bit bad because when you come here you learn for yourself. I think that we’ve been very hard on the local people.”
“I never would want to offend the host country,” the goalkeeper added. “In fact, I’m cheering for Team USA, but besides Team USA, I’m going to be cheering for the host country. I’m very grateful for them for hosting the tournament. Honestly, everybody around here has been so just nice and genuine, and it feels very warming to be here.”
Those comments, though, may been too little, too late for Brazilian fans in attendance Wednesday. They may or may not have been cheering for Team USA against New Zealand, but many of them were definitely not cheering for Solo.
After the match, a 2-0 win for the U.S., Solo stayed positive, saying in an on-field interview, “The Brazilians, they love soccer, they love football — it’s part of the culture.” She added, “They’re having fun.”
Solo told reporters that she was not fazed by the hostile crowd. “I’ve played in Mexico before,” she said. “I’ve played overseas. I mean, oftentimes it’s part of the football culture to boo the goalkeeper. I’m okay with that.”
While Solo certainly heard the booing, she said that did not hear fans chanting “Zika” late in the match. “I was pretty focused on the game,” she said. “What goes on around me in the stadium, honestly, it doesn’t really matter.”
Some other players on field couldn’t figure out what exactly the fans were chanting. “We’re expecting that,” Carli Lloyd said. “We’re expecting boos and people yelling stuff. It doesn’t change our mindset. We stay focused on the game. I think Hope’s used to that kind of all around the world.”