FIFA president Sepp Blatter has claimed that football has no problem with racism on the pitch and said that any problems should be settled with a handshake. But his lax attitude to racist abuse has drawn criticism from those inside and outside the game. Professional Footballers’ Association boss Gordon Taylor and sports minister Hugh Robertson have both called for Blatter to resign.
Speaking to CNN World Sport Blatter was asked if he thought on-field racism was a problem: “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.
“But the one who is affected by that, he should say ‘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.”
Senior figures inside and outside the football industry seized on Blatter’s comments with PFA chief executive Gordon Taylor branding them “disgraceful” while sports minister Hugh Robertson said he was appalled.
Taylor told Radio 4’s Today Programme: “I just feel it’s the straw that broke the camel’s back. When you see the corruption they’ve had at FIFA, the comments he made about homosexuals not going to Qatar, the way he talked about women’s football, the style of the arrangements for the World Cup, the fact he won’t have technology. I think it’s really time to move over for Michel Platini.”
Professionals past and present called on Blatter to resign with Blackburn Rovers striker Jason Roberts saying “I am absolutely disgusted, lost for words, I cannot believe he has said something like that with all the issues that have gone on. I am absolutely fuming.”
Broadcaster and ex-pro Mark Bright said he was “staggered” by the comments while Rio Ferdinand Tweeted Blatter directly to criticise the FIFA boss.
Kick It Out said: “These comments are worryingly out of touch. Shaking hands to compensate for a racial slur is not what the game has signed up to, and trivialises the work of campaigns like Kick It Out, which has been in the vanguard of rooting out discrimination and unacceptable behaviour in our game for the best part of two decades.
“High-profile incidents have brought the issue of racism back into sharp focus. But complaints are still being lodged at grassroots level. Shaking hands doesn't resonate with the zero-tolerance approach we encourage and certainly wouldn't resonate with the victim of the abuse.
“Report the incident to the regulatory body, and the investigation process begins. If it's found to be proven, action must be taken. New challenges and questions are being posed in this field every day. But leadership is needed to make headway. And comments like this don't help in the ultimate goal of kicking racism out football and making it a discrimination free-zone.”
Blatter’s clumsy attempts to back track haven’t stemmed the flow of criticism – especially as they only seem reiterate the quotes which landed him in trouble.
“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,” said Blatter.
Raj Chandarana, who leads the FSF's work on diversity, called on Blatter to quit, saying: “The remarks made by the FIFA president about the acceptability of racist 'banter' in football are totally unacceptable. Football has made great strides since the 1970s to combat racism and the FSF backs calls from the sports minister Hugh Robertson, and others, for Mr Blatter to be removed from FIFA.
“The overwhelming majority of English and Welsh football fans will be disgusted by these remarks. Mr Blatter’s comments must not be allowed to become license for a small minority to use racism in the name of 'banter'.”
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