(WFI) FIFA president Sepp Blatter today faced calls for his resignation over his remarks in two television interviews claiming that football does not have problems with on-field racism – and any incidents could be dealt with by a simple handshake.
Blatter told CNN on Wednesday that racism on the pitch was not a problem. “I would deny it. There is no racism,” he said.
“There is maybe one of the players towards another – he has a word or a gesture which is not the correct one.
“But the one who is affected by that, he should say that this is a game. We are in a game, and at the end of the game, we shake hands, and this can happen, because we have worked so hard against racism and discrimination.
The Swiss made similar comments in another interview with Al Jazeera, sparking further outrage.
High-profile Premier League players including England defender Rio Ferdinand and Blackburn Rovers striker Jason Roberts as well as former professional footballers Stan Collymore and Mark Bright said they were shocked by Blatter’s ill-judged remarks and called for Blatter to resign.
The 75-year-old’s comments were also condemned by Premier League chief executive Richard Scudamore, Professional Footballers’ Association chief executive Gordon Taylor and the Kick It Out racism campaign.
Ferdinand took to Twitter to blast Blatter – the Man Utd defender has over 1,630,000 followers: “Your comments on racism are so condescending it’s almost laughable. If fans shout racist chants but shake our hands is that OK?”
“I feel stupid for thinking that football was taking a leading role against racism – it seems it was just on mute for a while.”
Ferdinand added: ”Just for clarity if a player abuses a referee, does a shake of the hand after the game wipe the slate clean??”
Angry Reaction to Blatter Racism Gaffe
Britain’s sports and Olympics minister Hugh Robertson said Blatter’s comments were “completely unacceptable”.
“This is the latest episode that calls into question whether this man should be the head of world football,” he said in a statement.
“For the sake of the game, he should go.
“We have been consistent in our calls for improved governance at FIFA and this underlines the need for that once more. We must never be complacent in our efforts to tackle racism. There is no place or excuse for it either on or off the pitch.”
BBC pundit Bright, the former Sheffield Wednesday striker, told the BBC: “This is the head of world football, whose slogan is ‘For the Good of the Game’. What message does this send out after two or three decades of hard work fighting racism in football?
“He should resign his position because his views are archaic and out of touch.”
Sky Sports pundit Chris Kamara also urged Blatter to quit.
“Enough is enough. He has to go. He has overstepped the mark this time. It has to be resignation,” he said. “He has never been in the position of being abused for the colour of his skin.
“I’m an ambassador for the Kick It Out campaign. He should just be saying ‘Let’s get rid of it from the game, worldwide, so football is clean’. It is a flippant remark.
“Time after time
he does not seem to think about what he is saying. He has no idea what goes on on a day-to-day basis. If he did, he wouldn’t have come out with that. People can’t be as ignorant as him and stick their heads in the sand.”
PFA chief executive Taylor told a BBC radio breakfast programme that it was time Blatter stepped aside after one his worst gaffes: “I just feel it’s the straw that broke the camel’s back.
“When you see the corruption they’ve had at Fifa, the comments he made about homosexuals not going to Qatar, the way he talked about women’s football, the style of the arrangements for the World Cup, the fact he won’t have technology.
“I think it’s really time to move over for Michel Platini.”
EPL boss Scudamore told CNN that Blatter’s comments were incorrect: “Racism exists in the world, racism certainly still exists in football, albeit reduced. There are still issues, of course there are and we’re not complacent about that, but I think it’s a bit of a stretch to say it doesn’t exist because it does.”
Kick It Out described Blatter’s remarks on racism as “worryingly out of touch”.
“Shaking hands to compensate for a racial slur is not what the game has signed up to, and trivialises the work of campaigns like Kick It Out, which has been in the vanguard of rooting out discrimination and unacceptable behaviour in our game for the best part of two decades,” it said in a statement.
“High-profile incidents have brought the issue of racism back into sharp focus. But complaints are still being lodged at grass roots level. Shaking hands doesn’t resonate with the zero-tolerance approach we encourage and certainly wouldn’t resonate with the victim of the abuse.”
Blatter’s comments came on the day that the English FA charged Liverpool’s Luis Suarez for alleged racist comments towards Manchester United defender Patrice Evra. The Uruguayan is set to appeal. England captain John Terry is also the subject of a police and FA probe about alleged racist remarks he made to Ferdinand’s brother Anton Ferdinand in a recent match between Chelsea and QPR.
Blatter: Comments “Misunderstood”
The FIFA leader tried to defuse the row in a statement published on FIFA.com.
“I would like to make it very clear, I am committed to the fight against racism and any type of discrimination in football and in society,” Blatter said.
“My comments have been misunderstood. What I wanted to express is that, as football players, during a match, you have “battles” with your opponents, and sometimes things are done which are wrong. But, normally, at the end of the match, you apologise to your opponent if you had a confrontation during the match, you shake hands, and when the game is over, it is over.”
He added: “I want to stress again that I do not want to diminish the dimension of the problem of racism in society and in sport. I am committed to fighting this plague and kicking it out of football.”
By INSIDER editor Mark Bisson
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