Frank Lampard was unveiled as New York City FC's latest high-profile signing today, but had to face some uncomfortable questions about an event from his past as he started the new chapter of his career.
NYCFC's second designated player received a warm welcome from New Yorkers but 13-year-old incident was always lurking in the shadows ready to put a dampener on Lampard’s move to Major League Soccer.
In 2001, just a day after the 9/11 terrorist attacks that left New York in mourning, reports claimed that Lampard was one of a handful of Chelsea players who were apparently making fun of the terror act while rowdy and drunk at a hotel near an airport where American's who were stopped from travelling were also staying.
When asked about the reported incident on Thursday, Lampard admitted to having been out drunk on that fateful day, but insisted he never did anything out of line.
“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,” Lampard said. “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,” Lampard said. “I was very sensitive straightaway to the issue, and the tragedy.”
Lampard made his statement not too far away from the site of Ground Zero, and the location of his introductory press conference seemed the perfect setting for him to address an issue both he and NYCFC will be hoping doesn’t turn into a distraction as the expansion club moves toward its debut season in MLS in 2015.
“He has explained it, and he’s dealt with it,” NYCFC Sporting Director Claudio Reyna said of the controversy that had several New York natives upset. “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.”
When asked if Lampard would be paying a visit to the 9/11 memorial in Manhattan, the 36-year old did say that it was in his immediate plans.
“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,” he said.
Though one press conference and Q&A with journalists may not put all the talk about Lampard’s actions 13 years ago to rest, the former Chelsea star made it clear that addressing the controversy and clearing his name with regard to it was a priority as he prepares to embark on the next chapter of his storied career.
“Again, the most important thing for me to say is that I categorically did not insult or set out to insult someone,” Lampard said. “Unfortunately it was very much misreported at the time in England and it’s actually a chance for me to finally say that.”