A soccer star who allegedly mocked grieving American tourists at a Heathrow Airport hotel a day after the 9/11 terror attacks has been signed to play in New York.
Frank Lampard, 36, who starred with Chelsea FC starting in 2001, winning three Premier League titles, four FA Cups, two League Cups, one UEFA Champions League title, and one Europa League Championship, has joined Major League Soccer’s New York City FC.
A 2001 report from the BBC alleged that on September 12, 2001, Lampard and three other Chelsea players harassed tourists at the hotel who were stranded by flight cancellations by stripping naked, swearing at the tourists, and vomiting. Chelsea fined him two weeks’ wages.
Asked about the 2001 incident on Thursday at a press conference at Brooklyn’s Pier 5, Lampard responded:
I was naive and a young boy at the time. And I have some regrets at the fact that I was out on a day. I shouldn’t have been. I wouldn’t be if it was today, put it that way. I categorically didn’t insult anyone, set out to insult anyone, behave badly in front of Americans or, in fact, anyone. I was very sensitive straightaway to the issue, and the tragedy.
Lampard continued: “I’ve tried in the last 13 years at Chelsea to be a good man. Not just a good footballer, but a good man off the pitch. I’d like to think I’ve done that, and I want New Yorkers to hear that and see that. It’s up to me to show them and prove the footballer I am and person I am.”
The soccer star also asserted that he would visit the 9/11 memorial in Manhattan, saying, “I think it’s very important to pay respect, and being in New York now I think it’s a huge memorial and a place I will certainly go to and pay respect.”
Lampard tried to mitigate the past stain by saying, “Again, the most important thing for me to say is that I categorically did not insult or set out to insult someone. Unfortunately it was very much misreported at the time in England and it’s actually a chance for me to finally say that.”
He also tweeted, “I’m coming to a great city and I want to show that I can play great football and be a great personality in the locker room.”
New York City FC released a statement from Lampard in which he said:
I am really excited about joining New York City FC and helping to play a real part in building something special in one of the sporting capitals of the world. The passion of the nation’s fans at the World Cup was second to none and I am looking forward to meeting New Yorkers and tapping into their love of the game. It is a privilege to be able to help make history here in New York City–I just can’t wait to get started and be part of it.
New York City FC Sporting Director Claudio Reyna said, “He has explained it, and he’s dealt with it. We’re beyond comfortable with the person he is, and the man he is and the experiences he’s had. He’s a model professional. Anyone you ask can tell you the kind of person he is.”
Photo credit: New York City FC