Blatter race row heats up as Ferdinand leads outcry

EMBATTLED Fifa president Sepp Blatter was facing fresh calls to resign last night after he stood by his comments claiming racism in football is not prevalent, a stance which sparked a public spat between himself and Manchester United defender Rio Ferdinand.

On a day when British footballers and politicians united in their blanket condemnation of Blatter’s controversial views, the 75-year-old’s position at the head of world football’s governing body looked to remain rock solid.

His notion that instances of racist behaviour on the pitch could be settled with a handshake barely caused a ripple in some parts of Europe, but after trying to clarify his comments Blatter responded directly to Ferdinand’s criticism on Twitter.

Ferdinand (inset) had slammed Blatter, saying his comments were “so condescending it’s almost laughable”, and criticised Fifa for attempting to “clear up the Blatter comments with a pic of him posing with a black man”.

In a direct response to Ferdinand the Swiss said: “The ‘black man’ as you call him has a name: Tokyo Sexwale. He has done tremendous work against racism and apartheid in Africa.”

Blatter also claimed Fifa has a “long-standing and proud record in the area of anti-discrimination”.

Ferdinand responded: “To say what you said about racism in football spoke volumes of your ignorance to the subject.”

Rather than claiming his remarks had been misconstrued, or even admitting to an error of judgement, Blatter invited further criticism yesterday by standing behind his comments.

He said: “I thought, and I’m still a very optimistic man, that after the World Cup in South Africa where it was really connecting the people, all different races, all different cultures being brought together through football, that not only in the continent of Africa but everywhere in the world that this [racism] was over.

“But 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.”