FIFA chief Blatter 'hurt' by racism storm

FIFA chief Sepp Blatter Wednesday admitted he was "hurt" by the outrage sparked by his controversial comments about racism in football as he struggled to draw a line under the row.

Updated: November 23, 2011 13:44 IST
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Kuala Lumpur: FIFA chief Sepp Blatter Wednesday admitted he was "hurt" by the outrage sparked by his controversial comments about racism in football as he struggled to draw a line under the row.

Blatter said the stormy fall-out, which continues to reverberate, "touched me in my conscience" but he strongly denied any racist feelings and said there was no tolerance for discrimination in football's governing body.

The FIFA president last week said victims of on-pitch racial taunts should simply shake hands with their abusers, in remarks that were roundly condemned and prompted calls for his resignation.

"In my activities as FIFA president nothing surprises me, but I was very much hurt by these comments because it touched me in my conscience," Blatter told journalists in Kuala Lumpur.

"There is no tolerance for racism, I have been interpreted as such and I have made apologies," he added. "I cannot say more, and if someone is still thinking that I'm a racist, sorry to say that."

Blatter has already apologised for his remarks, which were decried as "appalling" by both British Prime Minister David Cameron and idolised English star David Beckham.

They follow high-profile investigations into alleged on-pitch racism by England captain John Terry and Liverpool striker Luis Suarez which have rocked England's Premier League.

Queen's Park Rangers manager Neil Warnock has even called for black players to boycott the next round of international matches in protest against Blatter.

But the FIFA president said he now hoped the matter was now closed.

"There's no discrimination in my feeling, there's no racism, nothing at all. This matter for me is over and over," he said.

"I cannot say more than that we go forward and there is zero tolerance in racism, zero tolerance in discrimination, zero tolerance in all activities in the field of play and outside the field."

Blatter was speaking at the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) headquarters ahead of Wednesday's annual awards ceremony in the Malaysian capital.

The racism furore has added to the controversy swirling around Blatter and FIFA since bidding for the 2018 and 2022 World Cup hosting rights, awarded last year to Russia and Qatar, was tainted by corruption allegations.

In June, Blatter was re-elected to another four-year term as FIFA's president after winning a vicious battle with Asian football chief Mohamed bin Hammam, who is now banned from the sport over bribery claims.

Blatter has proposed initiatives to clean up football but his suggestion of appointing opera star Placido Domingo, Henry Kissinger and icon Johan Cruyff to a "council of wisdom" drew ridicule.

The 75-year-old has become known for a long line of public relations gaffes, including a proposal in 2004 for female players to wear tighter shorts to help popularise women's football.

However, Blatter has also gained a reputation as a shrewd and ruthless political operator during his 13-year tenure of FIFA, which has grown to become the world's richest sports body with cash reserves of US$1.3 billion.

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