Racism row is now over, says rattled Blatter

 

Fifa President Sepp Blatter snapped at colleagues and looked beset by nerves yesterday as he described the hurt he felt after being criticised for his comments about racism in football.

The usually slick Blatter addressed the media after opening the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) executive committee meeting in Kuala Lumpur, but when invited to speak to the small crowd he knocked a microphone off the table in front of him and shuffled uncomfortably in his seat.

The 75-year-old struggled through the media conference in Malaysia and offered long, rambling answers about topics such as the strength of Asian economies, while officials tried to limit tricky questions.

Blatter has been battered by negative headlines since last week when he said there was no racism in the sport and, if there was, players should just shake hands afterwards to resolve it.

The head of football's world governing body later released a statement to "clarify his comments" and has been on a charm offensive after conducting a number of interviews in Europe to stress his commitment to eradicating racism from the game.

However, the opening question at AFC House in Kuala Lumpur, predictably on his comments on racism, brought a curt reply. "I can only say this item for me is closed. I have made my apologies, I cannot say more," Blatter said, eyes shifting around the room as he looked for the right words.

"If somebody is still thinking I am a racist, sorry to say that I am working now practically 37 years in Fifa... there is no racism, nothing at all, and this matter for me is over and over. We go forward."

Asked if he had been surprised by the reaction to his comments and calls for him to resign from the post he has held since 1998, the Swiss said he had been upset by the criticism.

"In my activities as the Fifa president nothing is surprising me, but I was very much hurt by these comments because it touched me in my conscience [sic]."

An AFC official asked for no more questions on the subject, and Fifa vice president, Prince Ali of Jordan, sat next to the Swiss, offered his full support to the Fifa leader, though a later question about the use of the hijab in football led to disagreement between them over who should answer.

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