Calls grow for FIFA chief Blatter’s resignation over racism comments
LONDON - Agence France-Presse
This file photo shows FIFA’ chief Sepp Blatter during a EURO 2012 Group D qualifying match between Romania and France at the National Arena of Bucharest Sept 6. AP photo
Britain’s sports minister led calls for FIFA president Sepp Blatter to resign yesterday after the global football supreme played down the extent of racism in the sport.
Hugh Robertson said Blatter’s position as head of world football was no longer tenable after he said in a television interview that disputes on the pitch involving racist abuse should be resolved by a handshake.
“This is incredibly serious but it is part of a pattern of behavior,” sports minister Robertson told BBC radio.
Asked whether Blatter should resign, Robertson said: “Yes. I can’t see there’s anything terribly new in this. We’ve been saying this for some time.”
The head of England’s Professional Footballers Association, Gordon Taylor, also said Blatter should quit over the remarks.
“He is the leader of world football, he has to be a leader in anti-racism,” Taylor told Sky News. “Racism is divisive and for him to say the player on the receiving end should forget about it at the end of the game and shake hands... We are going backwards... It is not good enough, it’s embarrassing.
“It is time for him to go.”
Blatter’s comments were greeted with incredulity by the British media, a long-time critic of the Swiss administrator’s stewardship of FIFA.
The Sun tabloid led the condemnation with a front page story headlined “Blind as a Blatt,” while the paper’s editorial said it was time for the veteran Swiss official to step down.
“Blatter has long been a serious embarrassment to the game,” the paper said. “Now we know he thinks racism is no big deal. What a toad he is.”
In an interview with CNN on Wednesday, Blatter said the sport did not have a problem with racism.
“I would deny it. There is no racism, there is maybe one of the players towards another, he has a word or a gesture which is not the correct one,” he said.
“But also 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.”
Blatter later issued a statement clarifying his remarks.
“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,” he said.
But former England captain Rio Ferdinand addressed Blatter directly via Twitter: “Your comments on racism are so condescending it’s almost laughable. If fans shout racist chants but shake our hands is that ok?”
Blatter on Thursday reiterated FIFA’s “proud record” of fighting discrimination in a post on Twitter.