Sepp Blatter struggles amid questions regarding racism comments
Fifa president Sepp Blatter snapped at colleagues and looked beset by nerves today as he described the hurt he felt after being criticised for his comments about racism in soccer.
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 waves of 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 soccer'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 soccer.
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 told reporters, 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 by Reuters 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."
After Blatter answered, an AFC official hosting the session asked for no more questions on the subject, and FIFA vice president Prince Ali of Jordan, sat next to the Swiss, then offered his full support to the beleaguered FIFA leader.
However it was not just the media who were causing Blatter angst. When asked about the use of the hijab, the Islamic head scarf, in soccer, Blatter shot down Prince Ali's offer to answer on his behalf.
"I can just answer, I was asked, I answer. You can add but I answer," a visibly frustrated Blatter snapped as Prince Ali blushed.
The AFC official was required to come to the president's aid when he was asked if there was any way banned AFC head Mohammed Bin Hammam could be welcomed back into FIFA in future after they found him guilty of bribing officials.
"I am not up to comment on any decision taken by our different committees and we will await the outcome for the next step," Blatter said before the official added the subject should not be mentioned again.
Bin Hammam has launched an appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport to overturn the FIFA ban and faces a race against time to clear his name by a deadline of May 31 in order to return to his role.
The AFC have appointed Zhang Jilong as acting president and Blatter praised his work before having a dig at his former friend Bin Hammam.
"I can only congratulate and commend the Asian Football Confederation how they have dealt with the problem that has occurred here in this confederation especially by having to replace the president.
"We now have an acting president, we have an executive committee that is working together in solidarity and unity, and I am very, very happy."
Latest in Sport
The dust is barely settling on the Premier League season and the bookies are looking to persuade us ...
by Gareth Purnell
22 May 2013 02:01 AM
The guard has changed at Old Trafford for the first time in 26 years. Meanwhile, down the road, the ...
by The Sports Lawyer
21 May 2013 10:01 PM
With the top nine players in the men’s world tennis rankings all missing this tournament to prepare ...
by Gareth Purnell
21 May 2013 02:01 AM
- 1 'He was lucky he didn't die' - George Michael fell out of speeding car onto M1 motorway, according to eye witness
- 2 Gay couple beaten in park urge MPs to moderate language on gay marriage
- 3 After woman sells virginity for $780,000, here are the results of our prostitution survey
- 4 Far-right French historian, 78-year-old Dominique Venner, commits suicide in Notre Dame in protest against gay marriage
- 5 'It was just like the movie Twister': Man survives Oklahoma tornado by taking refuge in horse stall
BMF is the UK’s biggest and best loved outdoor fitness classes
Find out what The Independent's resident travel expert has to say about one of the most beautiful small cities in the world
Win anything from gadgets to five-star holidays on our competitions and offers page.