x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Blatter stands firm in racism row

The Fifa president says: "All my life in football now has been accompanied by fighting discrimination."

Sepp Blatter, the Fifa president, came into criticism by downplaying racism in football.
Sepp Blatter, the Fifa president, came into criticism by downplaying racism in football.

GENEVA // Sepp Blatter, the Fifa president, has appeared to stand by his suggestion that racism on the pitch should be settled by a handshake and defended his record on tackling discrimination.

Blatter followed his comments made yesterday in a fresh TV interview today where he apparently likened racist abuse on the pitch to "foul language".

The furore sparked by comments made in earlier interviews given to CNN and Al Jazeera has led to influential figures in British sport to call for Blatter to resign but there looks to be little serious threat to his hold on the FIFA presidency.

Outside of Britain, the controversy has barely caused a ripple – it merited a single paragraph in French sports daily L'Equipe, and was treated similarly in Spain, Italy, Germany and the United States.

In an interview with Fox Soccer, Blatter stuck to his guns.

He said: "I can tell you in all my life in football now has been accompanied by fighting discrimination and fighting racism.

"I thought, and I'm still a very optimistic man, that after the World Cup in South Africa where it was really connecting the people, all different races, all different cultures being brought together through football, that not only in the continent of Africa but everywhere in the world that this was over.

"But still, where human beings are, there are still some moments and we can never stop going against racism, against discrimination.

"But if you also be a little bit in a sporting spirit when there is something happening on the field of play, during a match between two players – I call it foul language.

"I'm not saying about discrimination, but it's foul language, it's a foul play. At the end of the match, if you have foul play (when) the match is over you shake hands now because it's what we want to do. Before the match and at the end of the match everyone shall shake hands and therefore also forget what has been on the field of play."

"But having said that, I go on with my determination and my energy to go against all discrimination and racism."

Blatter's earlier comments led to a Twitter war of words between him and England defender Rio Ferdinand.

Meanwhile, sports minister Hugh Robertson and players' chief Gordon Taylor called for Blatter to step down.

The furore has been heightened by the fact there are two high-profile current cases in England involving alleged racism on the pitch.

Chelsea's John Terry is being investigated by the Football Association and the police after allegations he racially abused QPR defender Anton Ferdinand, Rio's brother, and the Football Association yesterday charged Liverpool's Luis Suarez with racially abusing Manchester United's Patrice Evra.

Prime Minister David Cameron later released a statement on the matter in which he said: "It's appalling to suggest that racism in any way should be accepted as part of the game.

"A lot of work has gone into ridding racism from all aspects of our society, including football. As many of our top sports stars have rightly pointed out, now is not the time for complacency."