World football gossip circles are in overdrive following a stunning incident between two rival strikers following the World Cup opener between Australia and Ireland on Thursday night.
Video footage shows Irish striker Ruesha Littlejohn clearly refusing to shake hands with Aussie star Caitlin Ford just before kick-off, a highly unusual snub in football.
Witnesses say tensions escalated to the point where Littlejohn was seen trying to approach Ford while the teams were still on the pitch after the match, only to be physically restrained by his teammates.
Rumors are now rife as to what inspired the Irish striker’s strange behavior and fans are speculating that it may have something to do with Littlejohn’s recent split from long-time partner and Irish captain Katie McCabe.
One of Ireland’s glamor football couples, Littlejohn and McCabe split after just over seven years together, with McCabe confirming the break-up during an interview with UK’s Players’ Tribune shortly before the World Cup.
Footage shows Ruesha Littlejohn completely ignoring Foord in a handshake procession ahead of Ireland’s 1-0 loss to the Matildas on Thursday night.
Caltin Ford is pictured taking on Littlejohn in the team’s opening match at the World Cup
It is understood that McCabe and Ford, who both play for UK Premier League powerhouse Arsenal, are good friends and have recently been holidaying with a large group of friends in Ibiza.
Ford has also recently been single following his split from Swiss midfielder and Arsenal team-mate Leah Walti.
Daily Mail Australia does not believe Ford had anything to do with Littlejohn and McCabe breaking up.
Footage of the ‘Blanked’ handshake has garnered thousands of views on TikTok, where Littlejohn casually avoids Ford’s outstretched hand.
‘It is clear now [sic] There’s some drama between Katie, Ryusha and Kaitlyn,’ wrote one Tik Tok user.
‘Ruesha this is so personal’, wrote another.
When contacted by his management, Ford declined to comment on the incident.
However, Matildas insiders insist Ford and McCabe are just good mates and their friendship has had no bearing on McCabe’s split with Littlejohn.
Ford (left) is good friends with McCabe (right) and the pair play together for Arsenal
Ireland captain Katie McCabe recently confirmed her split from teammate Littlejohn
McCabe is seen shaking the hand of injured Aussie captain Sam Kerr after the loss
A source close to the team told Daily Mail Australia, ‘Obviously there’s still some tension on Littlejohn’s side which looks like it spilled over a bit on Thursday night.’
‘Caitlin and Katie are great friends.
‘They play together for Arsenal. They spend a lot of time together. But nothing more than that.’
News of Littlejohn and McCabe’s split recently made headlines in Ireland, with McCabe referring to Littlejohn as ‘my partner at the time’ in a past interview that they were no longer together.
McCabe and Littlejohn were photographed together on vacation during their seven-year relationship
Ford (left) and McCabe are said to be part of a tight-knit circle in England
Ford was until recently in a relationship with Arsenal teammate and Swiss international Lia Walty (pictured).
The interview is believed to have been given just two days before the World Cup.
In the piece, McCabe describes how he was taken under the wing of Ireland legend Emma Byrne when she signed for Arsenal in late 2015.
After just over a year with the north Londoner, then Ireland manager Colin Bell called Katie to inform him he was appointing the Arsenal star as captain.
‘Then a little over a year later, in July 2017, things got even crazier,’ McCabe said.
‘I was in Coney Island in Northern Ireland with my partner Ruesha and her family at the time. At one point I checked my phone, and I saw a missed call from Ireland coach Colin Bell.’
The pair started dating around 2016 and went public with their relationship in 2019. Together, McCabe and Littlejohn both fronted campaigns designed to help young people struggling with their sexuality.
Happily Ever After: McCabe (L) and Littlejohn during their seven-year relationship
The couple is seen here after the October 2022 FIFA Women’s World Cup play-off match
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