Blatter faces calls to resign in racism furor

Britain's sports minister led calls for FIFA president Sepp Blatter to resign on Thursday after the global football supremo played down the extent of racism in the sport.

Updated: November 18, 2011 00:13 IST
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London: Britain's sports minister led calls for FIFA president Sepp Blatter to resign on Thursday after the global football supremo 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.

"Sepp Blatter's comments are completely unacceptable," Robertson said. "This is the latest episode that calls into question whether this man should be the head of world football.

"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."

The head of England's Professional Footballers Association, Gordon Taylor, also said Blatter should quit.

"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."

Herman Ouseley, a member of the House of Lords who chairs the anti-racism Kick It Out group, said Blatter had no "understanding of what racism is".

"Enlightened leadership at this level is needed. Minor matters on the field often can be resolved with a handshake. Racism is not a minor matter," he said.

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."

Blatter's comments came as Liverpool's Uruguayan international Luis Suarez was charged by the English Football Association for allegedly racially abusing Manchester United's French international Patrice Evra.

England captain John Terry is also facing a police and FA investigation over allegations he hurled racist abuse at QPR defender Anton Ferdinand.

The Daily Telegraph's football correspondent Henry Winter, meanwhile, said Blatter's position at the summit of the sport was untenable.

"Any politician who had uttered similarly offensive comments would have been sacked or resigned," Winter wrote. "Yet Tyrannosaurus Sepp carries on, an embarrassment to a wonderful sport, an affront to common decency."

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.

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