The gossip circles of world football are in a frenzy after a startling on-field incident between two opposing strikers following Thursday night’s World Cup opener between Australia and Ireland.
Video footage shows Ireland striker Ruesha Littlejohn flatly refusing to shake hands with Australian star Caitlin Foord just before kick-off, a highly unusual move in football.
Eyewitnesses report that tensions were so high that Littlejohn appeared to attempt to approach Foord while the two teams were still on the field after the game, only to be physically restrained by some of her teammates.
Now rumors are circulating as to what motivated the Ireland striker’s bizarre behavior, with fans speculating it could have something to do with Littlejohn’s recent split from his longtime partner and Ireland captain Katie McCabe.
One of Ireland’s most glamorous football couples, Littlejohn and McCabe have split after just over seven years together. McCabe confirmed the split in an interview with Britain’s Players Tribune just ahead of the World Cup.
Footage shows Ruesha completely ignoring Littlejohn Foord in the handshake procession ahead of Ireland’s 1-0 defeat by the Matildas on Thursday night
Cailtin Foord is seen clashing with Littlejohn during the World Cup team’s opening game
It is understood that McCabe and Foord, who both play for British Premier League star Arsenal, are good friends and have recently holidayed in Ibiza with a large group of friends.
Foord has also recently become single after splitting from Swiss midfielder and Arsenal team-mate Lia Walti.
Daily Mail Australia does not believe Foord had anything to do with Littlejohn and McCabe’s breakdown.
Footage of the “empty” handshake has garnered thousands of views on TikTok, with comments focusing on Littlejohn, who apparently omits Foord’s outstretched hand.
“Now everything’s clear [sic] “There is drama between Katie, Reusha and Caitlin,” wrote one Tik Tok user.
“Ruesha this is too personal,” wrote another.
Foord was contacted through her management and declined to comment on the incident.
However, Matilda’s insiders insist that Foord and McCabe are just good friends and that their friendship has no bearing on McCabe’s breakup with Littlejohn.
Foord led the Matildas onto the field in the absence of injured captain Sam Kerr and was snubbed by Littlejohn shortly after
Ireland captain Katie McCabe recently confirmed her split from teammate Littlejohn
McCabe shakes hands with injured Australia captain Sam Kerr after defeat
“There is obviously still tension on Littlejohn’s side, which appears to have escalated somewhat on Thursday night,” a source close to the team told Daily Mail Australia.
“Caitlin and Katie are great friends.
“They play together for Arsenal.” They spend a lot of time together. But there is nothing further behind it.’
News of Littlejohn and McCabe’s split made headlines in Ireland recently when McCabe referred to Littlejohn as ‘my partner at the time’ in an interview in the past tense – a sure sign they are no longer together.
Littlejohn and McCabe here in January 2023 – several months before their split
Foord and McCabe are good friends and teammates at British football powerhouse Arsenal
Foord (left) and McCabe are said to be part of a close circle of friends in England
Until recently, Foord was in a relationship with his Arsenal colleague and Swiss international Lia Walti (picture).
The interview is believed to have been given just two days before the World Cup.
In the article, McCabe describes how she was taken under her wing by Irish legend Emma Byrne when she signed for Arsenal in late 2015.
After just over a year with the north London side, then-Ireland manager Colin Bell called Katie to say he was making the Arsenal star captain.
“Then, a little over a year later, in July 2017, things got even crazier,” McCabe said.
“I was with Ruesha, my partner at the time, and her family on a trip to Coney Island in Northern Ireland. At one point I looked at my phone and realized I had received a missed call from Colin Bell, the Ireland manager.”
The couple started dating around 2016 and went public with their relationship in 2019. Together, McCabe and Littlejohn have led campaigns aimed at helping young people struggling with their sexuality.
Happier times: McCabe (left) and Littlejohn during their seven-year relationship
The pair are seen here after the FIFA Women’s World Cup play-off game in October 2022