Fury over Blatter's 'no racism in football' claim
Published 22:30 16/11/11 By Martin Lipton
FIFA president Sepp Blatter has sparked outrage by claiming there is no racism in football.
And the Swiss added insult to injury as he added that any racial abuse on the pitch could be settled with a handshake at the end of the match.
On the day the FA charged Liverpool striker Luis Suarez with racially abusing Manchester United’s Patrice Evra, while police continue to investigate John Terry’s alleged comments to Anton Ferdinand, Blatter maintained the issue was not serious.
In interviews with the CNN and Al-Jazeera TV networks, Blatter denied that racism was a problem in football.
Blatter said: “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, but also the one who is affected by that.
“During a match you may make a movement towards somebody or you may say something to somebody who is not exactly looking like you.
“But at the end of the match it’s forgotten.
“This is not racism. Racism is if the spectators or outside the field of play make a movement.
“But on the field of play I deny there is racism. If it happens in a league they have to make the investigation and come to a solution. But I would say that is to bring those two people together and say ‘shake hands’.
“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 added that the World Cup in South Africa confirmed his “opinion that racism has disappeared completely”, insisting: “That World Cup proved you can connect people.
“I think the whole world is aware of the efforts we are making against racism and discrimination. And on the field of play sometimes you say something that is not very correct, but then at the end of the game, the game is over and you have the next game where you can behave better.”
Rio Ferdinand was among those voicing their disbelief.
The Manchester United and England defender tweeted: “Tell me I have just read Sepp Blatter’s comments on racism in football wrong .... if not then I am astonished.
“I feel stupid for thinking that football was taking a leading role against racism – it seems it was just on mute for a while. Just for clarity if a player abuses a referee, does a shake of the hand after the game wipe the slate clean?”
BBC pundit Garth Crooks said: “Sepp is a man out of time and out of touch.”
Radio host and former Liverpool and England striker Stan Collymore called on Blatter to quit.
The FIFA chief himself appeared to realise he had caused global anger, taking to Twitter within hours of the interviews being broadcast to justify his comments.
The game's governing body also rushed out a statement on his behalf in which Blatter said: “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.
“I also know that racism unfortunately continues to exist in football, and I have never denied this. I know that it is a big problem in society, and that it also affects sport. I strongly believe that we should continue to fight all together against racism on and off the field of play, in order to eradicate this plague.
“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. Anyone who has played a football match, or a match in any sport, knows that this is the case.”