Welcome to the new Independent website. We hope you enjoy it and we value your feedback. Please contact us here.

Blatter comments condemned as 'wholly unacceptable'

Former basketball star and gay rights campaigner John Amaechi has complained to Fifa about president Sepp Blatter's comments regarding the World Cup in Qatar.

Homosexuality is illegal in the country that will host the 2022 tournament, prompting concern over the potential treatment of gay fans.

Asked about the issue at the launch of a post-2010 World Cup legacy project in South Africa yesterday, Blatter appeared to laugh it off, saying: "I would say they should refrain from any sexual activities."

Amaechi, who came out in 2007 four years after retiring from the NBA, was "enraged" by the comments and has contacted Fifa to complain.

The 40-year-old from Stockport wrote on his blog: "The statements and the position adopted by Sepp Blatter and Fifa regarding LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) fans who would pay the enormous ticket and travel prices to attend the World Cup in 2022 should have been wholly unacceptable a decade ago, instead, with little more than an afterthought, Fifa has endorsed the marginalisation of LGBT people around the world.

"Anything less than a full reversal of his position is unacceptable and, if the FA (Football Association) and football and sporting associations around the world fail to acknowledge this insult, they too will be complicit.

"If sport cannot serve to change society, even temporarily during the duration of an event like the World Cup that invites the world to participate, then it is little more than grown men chasing a ball, and we should treat it as such."

Chris Basiurski, chairman of the Gay Football Supporters' Network, called for Blatter to apologise for the comments or resign.

"Many LGBT people live in countries where they would face execution or imprisonment if discovered," he said. "These people deserve our help, our respect and our support.

"They, like the rest of us, do not deserve to be laughed at. Mr Blatter should retract his remarks and apologise immediately. Otherwise, he should reconsider his position and resign.

"Mr Blatter is naive to think that, by taking the beautiful game to Qatar, it will bring an end to discrimination in the Middle East.

"He says that football is 'everything for everyone' but he has not yet explained just how Fifa is going to ensure that LGBT football players and supporters will be welcome in Qatar.

"With the help of 'Kick it Out' we are making considerable progress to tackle the issue of homophobia in football in the UK but Sepp Blatter's remarks show there is still much to be done."