Sepp Blatter has apologised for his denial of the problem of racism in football today. In an interview with the BBC, the FIFA President said he was “sorry”, insisting he is “committedto the fight against racism”.
Speaking to the BBC’s Sports Editor David Bond, Blatter said:
“My personal position against racisim is very clear. I started my Fifa career in Africa 36 years ago and it is part of my core values to respect all nations all cultures and I see football as a game that unites people. I’m sorry, and I regret that my statements earlier this week has resulted in an unfortunate situation…
“I am commiteed to the fight against racism.”
When asked his future policy if there was a racist comment made on the field, Blatter was clear:
Blatter’s apology follows his use of “unfortunate words” in an interview with CNN two days ago, in which he said:
“There is no racism.
“Maybe one of the players has a word or a gesture which is not the correct one, but the one who is effected 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.”
After the initial outrage, Blatter doubled down on his comments, defending himself as recently as last night:
“If you also be a little bit in a sporting spirit when there is something happening on the field of play, during a match, between two players – I call it foul language.
“I’m not saying about discrimination but it’s foul language, it’s a foul play. At the end of the match, if you have foul play, [when] the match is over you shake hands now because it’s what we want to do.
“Before the match and at the end of the match everyone shall shake hands and therefore also forget what has been on the field of play.“
Clearly, Blatter woke up this morning in a more contrite mood. Whether this will be enough to save his reputation in the UK is unclear, but Blatter’s position at the head of FIFA seems secure. This row has been almost entirely confined to Britain, and that alone, sadly, is enough to keep him safe.
• He sees no corruption, hears no racism and speaks no sense: It’s time to kick Blatter out – Shamik Das, November 17th 2011
• Action must be taken whenever racism rears its ugly head – including in sport – Sabby Dhalu, November 12th 2011
• Has racism returned to football? – Shamik Das, October 25th 2011
• FIFA: A laughing stock that isn’t funny anymore – Dominic Browne, June 17th 2011
• FIFA corruption scandal – football needs its Gorbachev moment – Sunder Katwala, June 1st 2011