Blatter, Twitter, Racism and Rio; Fifa Chief Faces Army of Critics

The Journal (Newcastle, England), November 18, 2011 | Go to article overview

Blatter, Twitter, Racism and Rio; Fifa Chief Faces Army of Critics


Byline: Martyn Ziegler

FIFA president Sepp Blatter last night appeared to stand by his suggestion that racism on the football pitch should be settled by a handshake and defended his record on tackling discrimination.

Blatter followed his comments made on Wednesday in a fresh TV interview yesterday 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: "All my life in football has been accompanied by fighting discrimination and fighting racism. I thought 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.

"We can never stop going against racism, against discrimination. "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 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 FA on Wednesday SINKING TO NEW DEPTHS ON A CONTROVERSIAL DAY Sepp Blatter stuck to his guns yesterday by claiming he has fought racism throughout his career in Fifa, but there was widespread condemnation of his remarks on racism in football, including a Twitter spat with England defender Rio Ferdinand charged Liverpool's Luis Suarez with racially abusing Manchester United's Patrice Evra.

Blatter will have been ill-advised, however, to have become embroiled with an angry reply to Ferdinand on Twitter. The Manchester United defender criticised Fifa's attempts to clarify Blatter's comments with a statement on their website underneath a large picture of Blatter with South African minister Tokyo Sexwale, who was imprisoned on Robben Island during the apartheid era.

Ferdinand wrote: "Fifa clear up the blatter comments with a pic of him posing with a black man..I need the hand covering eyes symbol!!" Blatter was stung into a response yesterday and replied directly to Ferdinand saying: "The 'black man' as you call him has a name: Tokyo Sexwale. He has done tremendous work against racism and apartheid in Africa.

"We have several joint activities to raise awareness on the struggle against racism in South Africa. Fifa has a long-standing and proud record in the area of antidiscrimination which will continue." Ferdinand responded himself to Blatter, saying: "To say what you said about racism in football spoke volumes of your ignorance to the subject. …

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