Blatter tweets Rio: I stand by racism record
UNDER-fire FIFA president Sepp Blatter embroiled himself in a Twitter war-of-words with Rio Ferdinand today over his comments about racism.
The Manchester United defender had condemned Blatter's remark that racism on the pitch was not a problem and that racist abuse between players should be settled by a handshake.
The comments stirred up a storm which has led to calls for Blatter to resign.
Ferdinand contacted Blatter's Twitter account directly, writing: "@SeppBlatter your comments on racism are so condescending its almost laughable. If fans shout racist chants but shake our hands is that ok?"
The England player also criticised FIFA's attempts to clarify Blatter's comments with a statement on their website underneath a picture of Blatter with South African minister Tokyo Sexwale, who was imprisoned on Robben Island during the apartheid era.
Ferdinand wrote: "Fifa clear up the blatter comments with a pic of him posing with a black man..I need the hand covering eyes symbol!!"
Blatter was stung into a response today and replied directly to Ferdinand saying: "The 'black man' as you call him has a name: Tokyo Sexwale. He has done tremendous work against racism and apartheid in Africa.
"We have done several joint activities to raise awareness on the struggle against racism in South Africa. FIFA has a long standing and proud record in the area of anti-discrimination which will continue."
In two separate television interviews Blatter had claimed racism on the pitch was not a problem and that racist abuse between players should be settled by a handshake.
The 75-year-old later claimed he had been misunderstood, but he had already provoked a furious backlash.
Ferdinand contacted Blatter's Twitter account directly, writing: ''@SeppBlatter your comments on racism are so condescending its almost laughable. If fans shout racist chants but shake our hands is that ok?''
He also wrote: ''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??''
Asked if racism was a problem on the pitch, Blatter had earlier told CNN World Sport: ''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 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 also said on Al Jazeera: ''During a match you may say something to someone who's not looking exactly like you, but at end of match it's forgotten.''
Piara Powar, executive director of FARE, European football's anti-discrimination and exclusion campaign, was scathing about Blatter's remarks.
Powar said: ''Sepp Blatter's comments about player-on-player racism are at best naive, and at worst, ignorant.
"They undermine the good work of both Fifa and a global movement against discrimination in football and in society.''
Blatter attempted to douse the controversy by issuing a statement on Fifa's official website, where he pledged his commitment to stamping out racism from football.
He said: ''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.
''Having said that, I want to stress again that I do not want to diminish the dimension of the problem of racism in society and in sport.
''I am committed to fighting this plague and kicking it out of football.''