Footage has revealed one of Ireland’s star players appearing to refuse to shake the hand of Australia’s Caitlin Foord before the Matildas’ triumphant opening World Cup game.
In what is being interpreted as an epic on-pitch spat, social media footage from Thursday showed the two team’s players lining up to shake hands, fist bump and high five before the match kicked off.
But Littlejohn seems to pull her hand away as Foord was going in for a handshake.
The Irish midfielder then shook the next Matilda player’s hand.
And that was just the start of the controversy.
After the game, Ireland’s Ruesha Littlejohn and Foord seemed to confront each other.
Australia prevailed 1-0 over Ireland and as the celebrations began Littlejohn appeared to approach Foord on the pitch. However it looked as if teammates held her back.
Tongues are wagging about what could have caused the barney between the pair.
Speculation has centred on Littlejohn’s very recent spilt with partner and Ireland captain Katie McCabe. Foord is good mates with McCabe with the two on the same team in Britain.
Littlejohn and McCabe were an Irish football power couple for seven years.
They began dating in 2016 and went public with the relationship in 2019. Together, the pair have fronted campaigns to support young LGBTI people.
“If I come home after a tough day at training, or if maybe a game doesn’t go our way, she understands to let the dust settle a little bit,” McCabe said of Littlejohn in a 2022 interview with RSVP.
“I think we’ve got a really good balance of that, we know when to switch off from the football talk.”
But McCabe appeared to confirm a split just days ago.
In an article for website The Players’ Tribune, published on Tuesday, McCabe spoke about the moment she was told she was Ireland captain in 2017 and how she was with Littlejohn at the time.
However, she referred to her relationship in the past tense and Littlejohn as “my partner at the time”.
McCabe and Foord both play for Women’s Super League team Arsenal and are friends off the pitch.
Pictures were recently shared of the two on holiday with friends on the Spanish island of Ibiza.
There’s no suggestion Foord had anything to do with the Irish couple’s break-up.
“Caitlin and Katie are great friends. They play together for Arsenal. They spend a lot of time together. But there’s nothing more to it than that,” a Matildas source told the Daily Mail.
“Clearly there is still some tension surrounding from Littlejohn’s side of things which looks like it spilled over a bit on Thursday night,” they added.
Foord hasn’t commented on the alleged snub.
Irish captain McCabe made some enemies on Thursday night at Stadium Australia where she clattered into a number of Matildas players.
McCabe, who is known for her aggressive play for Arsenal in the Women’s Super League, took out Hayley Raso with a borderline reckless studs-up challenge that had Australian fans livid.
McCabe was the most booked player in the Super League this season gone, with an equal-top seven yellow cards, and even has a Twitter account dedicated to her referee interactions called “Did Katie McCabe get a yellow card today?”
Former England and Manchester City goalkeeper Karen Bardsley called it petulant.
“There’s an element of petulance here from Katie McCabe,” Bardsley said on the BBC.
“These challenges from her have just started to add up now.
“It is the referee‘s responsibility to manage those situations, because if you don’t nip it in the bud then it will just keep escalating.
“We certainly don‘t want to see anyone either stretchered off or sent off.”
However, McCabe’s antics weren’t hated by everyone, with English presenter Laura Woods loving it.
“At one point she‘d gone down, she had her fingers strapped up, nothing is going to stop her, is it?” former talkSPORT Breakfast host Woods told ITV at half time.