Blatter says sorry as race row threatens role as FIFA boss
FIFA president Sepp Blatter has apologised for his comments regarding racism in football.
The 75-year-old had said in interviews earlier this week that incidents of racist abuse on the pitch could be settled by a handshake between the players concerned at the end of a match.
His comments drew strong criticism from people within the British game and in UK politics and in an interview with the BBC, he has now apologised for any offence his remarks caused.
Blatter said: ""When you have done something which was not totally correct, I can only say I am sorry for all those people affected by my declarations."
Blatter was adamant however, that he would not resign over the comments.
"I cannot resign," he added. "Why should I?"
Speaking about the reaction to his comments, Blatter added: "It hurts and I am still hurting because I couldn't envisage such a reaction."
But despite calls for him to go, he insisted he would not be standing down from his post.
He said: "When you are faced with a problem you have to face the problem. To leave would be totally unfair and not compatible with my fighting spirit, my character, my energy."
Tokyo Sexwale, the South African minister who was included in a photo with Blatter when FIFA put out an initial statement on Wednesday night saying the Swiss' comments had been misunderstood, told reporters in a press conference broadcast by Sky Sports News: "We should distinguish racial remarks from things that are said when players are fighting for a ball."
Asked if racism was a problem on the pitch, Blatter had said in an interview with CNN World Sport earlier this week: "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.
"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."
He tried to clarify his stance in an interview with Fox Soccer yesterday, although the BBC interview is the clearest acknowledgement yet from Blatter that his comments have caused offence.
Blatter admitted today that his comments had caused a "serious incident" and that he had used "unfortunate words" which he "deeply regretted".
He also said any players found guilty of racism on the pitch should be thrown out of the game.
"Zero tolerance," he said.
"This was a good lesson for me as well."
Ferdinand tweeted yesterday: "To say what you said about racism in football spoke volumes of your ignorance to the subject.
"If we want 2 stamp out racism in society a football pitch is a good place to start - loved by billions of people around the world."
Ferdinand's former United team-mate David Beckham joined in the condemnation of Blatter's comments, calling them "appalling" and adding: "(Racism) can't be swept under the carpet, it can't be sorted out with a handshake.
"That's not the way of the world and that's not how racism should be treated."