Soccer-Cox says she won’t play for Panama after federation chief calls her ‘fat’

By Thomson Reuters Mar 8, 2024 | 9:53 AM

(Reuters) – Panama midfielder Marta Cox vowed not to play for the national team again after the president of her country’s soccer federation (FEPAFUT) called her fat and “out of shape” following their CONCACAF W Gold Cup exit.

Panama left the tournament without getting a single point in the group stage, suffering heavy defeats by Colombia and Brazil.

Cox had mentioned the lack of good facilities in Panama which angered FEPAFUT president Manuel Arias, who told local media: “Marta Cox stopped to talk about our league. She’s out of shape, she’s fat, she couldn’t move on the pitch.

“It’s very easy to talk, but she doesn’t know anything about the Panama league for years, she doesn’t know what’s going on here.”

The 26-year-old plays for Tijuana in Mexico’s Liga MX Femenil. She made history last year by scoring Panama’s first-ever Women’s World Cup goal — as well as the quickest at the tournament — with a stunning 35-yard free kick against France.

“After the World Cup, I expected so much more. That desire to see steady progress led me to speak out after an unfortunate performance in the Gold Cup,” she said in a statement through Panama’s Association of Professional Footballers.

“We are the first to recognise that we were not up to the standard of the tournament, but that same introspection must go beyond just the players. Personally, I feel that there were words used to describe me that certainly hurt me and were unexpected.

“If this type of situation becomes a constant, I will not return to defend the colours of the Panama national team.”

FEPAFUT posted an apology saying Arias has promised it will not happen again.

“On International Women’s Day… from the Panamanian Football Federation we regret the unfortunate term used by our president Manuel Arias in the local media,” they said.

“He himself has pledged that it will not be repeated. In the Federation we are committed to continue working for women’s football, as we have been doing for the last five years through sports and training programmes focused on women.

“That said, we know that there is still a lot more work to do.”

(Reporting by Rohith Nair in Bengaluru; Editing by Christian Radnedge)