Blatter laughs at furore over Eriksson affair

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The Independent Football

The FIFA president, Sepp Blatter, yesterday laughed off the furore that has engulfed Sven Goran Eriksson and the Football Association after the England coach's affair with the FA secretary Faria Alam.

Blatter did warn that the conduits of the game held an important responsibility to protect the values of football, but he did not view Eriksson's liaison with Alam as anything other than "human relations".

"It's just a minor bit of news which seems to create a lot of amusement," Blatter said in Athens. "It is to enrich the summer, non-footballing season in England and Great Britain. They have started to play now. It was just in the last two weeks, with no football there.

"It is not an incident, it is something good. It is human relations. Football is also human relations. It is better than violence or stripping shirts on the field of play or tackling from behind. It is part of our life, football is part of our life. In life, if you have attractive people in the room, then such things can happen."

A spokesman for football's world governing body, Markus Siegler, joked: "I can see the headlines now: 'Fifa president praises human relations at FA.'" Blatter replied: "I didn't say this would be negative!"

He then took a serious tone and spoke of the need for leading officials to set an example. Disgruntled club managers, for instance, should embrace the Olympics instead of complaining about losing players to the competition.

The Manchester United manager, Sir Alex Ferguson, has been among the most outspoken, saying that Portugal's Cristiano Ronaldo and Argentina's Gabriel Heinze could endanger their first-team chances by playing in the Olympic tournament, which begins tomorrow. Several other leading coaches have voiced their dissatisfaction at losing players.

Blatter, however, said that the event had become an important part of the game's calendar.

"To tell a player he cannot go to the Olympics because he could lose his job, that is not fair, not in the spirit of solidarity," Blatter said. "What a coach should say is, 'Go, and bring back the experience of the Olympics. Come back in good shape but bring back that spirit'."