Sepp Blatter Faces Resignation Demands Following Racism Row
Fifa president Sepp Blatter has defended himself from calls to resign after he suggested there was "no racism" in football.
Asked during an interview with CNN whether it was a problem in the game he said: "I would deny it. 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 affected by that, he should say that 'this is a game'," he said.
"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.
"I think the whole world is aware of the efforts we are making against racism and discrimination. And, on the field of play sometimes you say something that is not very correct, but then at the end of the game, the game is over and you have the next game where you can behave better."
Blatter has faced widespread criticism of his comments from fans, sportspeople and officials, particularly in England. In Europe, however, the reaction has been notably more muted.
Gordon Taylor, the Professional Footballers' Association chief executive told the BBC's Today Programme that the comments were just the latest in a series of gaffes and suggested Blatter should step aside.
"I just feel it's the straw that broke the camel's back," he said.
"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."
He added: "I think it's really time to move over for Michel Platini."
UK sports minister Hugh Robertson also said Blatter should go.
“Sepp Blatter’s comments are completely unacceptable. This is the latest episode that calls into question whether this man should be the head of world football.
"For the sake of the game, he should go. We have been consistent in our calls for improved governance at Fifa and this underlines the need for that once more. We must never be complacent in our efforts to tackle racism. There is no place or excuse for it either on or off the pitch.”
England footballer Rio Ferdinand described Blatter's comments as "so condescending it's almost laughable". In a back-and-forth exchange with the Fifa president, he repeatedly refused to accept Blatter's explanation of his comments.
"If fans shout racist chants but shake our hands is that ok?" he asked Blatter on Twitter, later adding that his comments "spoke volumes of your ignorance to the subject".
Blackburn Rovers' Jason Roberts said he was "disgusted" by the Fifa president's comments.
"I'm truly shocked by his comments," he said. "For him to say this in public is either very honest or very foolish.
"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."
Read the highlights of Ferdinand and Blatter's argument below:
Following a public outcry Blatter said he had been "misunderstood" and was committed to tackling racism in the game.
"I would like to make it very clear, I am committed to the fight against racism and any type of discrimination in football and in society," he said in a statement.
"I have been personally leading this battle against racism in football, which Fifa has been fighting against throughout the past years through campaigns in all of our competitions such as the 'Say no to racism' campaign.
"I also know that racism unfortunately continues to exist in football, and I have never denied this. I know that it is a big problem in society, and that it also affects sport. I strongly believe that we should continue to fight all together against racism on and off the field of play, in order to eradicate this plague."
He added: "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. Anyone who has played a football match, or a match in any sport, knows that this is the case.
"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."
However the Fifa president's attempt to walk back his initial comments attracted ridicule from many as his statement was accompanied with a picture of him standing with a black man.
Blatter's comments are particularly ill-timed as they came moments before the English FA announced it would charge Liverpool striker Luis Suarez with racially abusing Manchester United defender Patrice Evra.
While England captain John Terry is also under investigation as to whether he racially abused QPR defender Anton Ferdinand, Rio's brother, during a game.
It is not the first time the Fifa president has gotten himself in to trouble by making controversial remarks.
After Qatar was awarded the 2022 World Cup Blatter said gay fans should "should refrain from any sexual activities" when visiting the country as homosexuality is illegal there.
In 2004, he suggested women wear "tighter shorts" to increase the popularity of women's football.