FIFA President Sepp Blatter apologized for his recent comments concerning racism in soccer.
Blatter, 75, said in an interview with CNN two days ago that racial confrontations on the field could be settled by a handshake between the players concerned at the end of the game. The remarks drew criticism from those in the sport in Britain, along with U.K. media and politicians.
“It hurts and I am still hurting because I couldn’t envisage such a reaction,” Blatter said in an interview with the British Broadcasting Corp. “When you have done something which is not totally correct, I can only say I am sorry for all those people affected by my declarations.”
Blatter added he wouldn’t give in to calls for him to step down as head of soccer’s governing body.
“I cannot resign,” he said. “Why should I? 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.”
England’s Football Association is currently investigating two claims of racism toward players in games.
Liverpool’s Luis Suarez was charged by the F.A. on the same day Blatter made his remarks with using racially abusive language toward Manchester United’s Patrice Evra, who is black, during an Oct. 15 Premier League match. Suarez, a Uruguayan, has denied the allegation.
England and Chelsea captain John Terry also faces F.A. and police investigations into allegations that he used a racist slur against Queens Park Rangers defender Anton Ferdinand in a Premier League game last month. Terry has denied wrongdoing, saying on Oct. 25 he “looks forward to clearing my name as soon as possible.”
Manchester United and England defender Rio Ferdinand, Anton Ferdinand’s brother, got into an exchange with Blatter on his Twitter account in which the player called the comments “condescending” and “laughable.” Former England captain David Beckham also described the comments “appalling” and Prime Minister David Cameron condemned the remarks, while U.K. sports minister Hugh Robertson and players union chief Gordon Taylor called for Blatter’s resignation.
Blatter admitted to the BBC that his comments caused a “serious incident” and that he used “unfortunate words” which he “deeply regretted.” He also said any player found of racism on the field should be thrown out of the game.
“Zero tolerance,” he said. “This was a good lesson for me as well.”
To contact the reporter on this story: Bob Bensch in London at firstname.lastname@example.org.