'Sorry' keeps Blatter safe as quit calls fall on deaf ears

Fifa president apologises for 'unfortunate words' but critics in England maintain he should go

Sepp Blatter, the embattled Fifa president, yesterday issued a full public apology for suggesting incidents of racist abuse on the football pitch could be settled with a handshake, but his move failed to stem the rising tide of condemnation from the game’s managers, players and power-brokers. The 75 year-old, though, remains adamant he will not resign his post. 

Typically defiant, after 48 hours in which he has faced a growing clamour for his departure from the Prime Minister David Cameron, David Beckham, Rio Ferdinand and countless others, Blatter allowed Tokyo Sexwale – a South African government minister and member of Fifa's executive committee who featured in a photograph disseminated by the game's governing body in the aftermath of Blatter's comments – to read out an apology during a press conference in Johannesburg before reiterating his stance in an interview with the BBC.

"My personal position and Fifa's stance against racism and any form of discrimination is very clear," he said. "It is part of my core values to respect all nations and all cultures. I see football as a game to unite people. I am sorry. I regret that my statements earlier this week have resulted in this unfortunate situation and have taken this dimension. I am committed to the fight against racism. I want to make clear that I will not stop until we have stamped racism out of football.

"It hurts and I am still hurting because I could not envisage such a reaction. When you have done something which was absolutely not totally correct, I can only say I am sorry for all those people affected by my declarations. [I was] pushed into a corner with very unfortunate words and this I deeply, deeply regret. I can ensure my fight against racism and discrimination will go on. It will never stop."

Insisting his original comments had not been "clear" – "I was talking about all foul language, though that is a detail now" – Blatter completed a full volte-face by suggesting, less than 24 hours after Liverpool's Uruguayan striker Luis Suarez was charged by the FA with racially abusing Manchester United's Patrice Evra, that any player found guilty of such an offence should be thrown out of the game altogether.

"Zero tolerance, out of the game, finished," said the Fifa president, before insisting that he could not so much as contemplate resigning: "I cannot resign. Why should I? When you are faced with a problem you have to face the problem. To leave would be totally unfair and not compatible with my fighting spirit, my character, my energy. It was a serious incident, and one I deeply, deeply regret, but we have to go on and I have to go on."

Blatter is likely to be allowed to do so thanks to the apparent apathy of Fifa's sponsors – only one of whom, Emirates, has so much as intimated that they are monitoring the affair with the possibility of reviewing their deal – and its member states. Though the storm continues to rage in Britain, with almost every Premier League manager invited to offer their thoughts yesterday, elsewhere in the world the affair has been largely ignored.

Indeed, the Portuguese legend Eusebio seemed to back Blatter's initial suggestion by intimating that Braga's black winger Alan had been "stupid" to make public the allegation he had been racially abused by Benfica's Javi Garcia during a recent league game. "It cannot be proved," said the former Benfica striker. "The things I heard to try and annoy me happened almost every game, but I did not take any notice."

David Beckham, on the other hand, dismissed the notion racist abuse should be ignored or tolerated by its victims, with the former England captain branding Blatter's initial comments "appalling". He added: "It cannot be swept under the carpet, it cannot be sorted out with a handshake. That is not how racism should be treated."

Blatter has also been subjected to fierce criticism from both the FA and Fifpro, the international players' union. "Mr Blatter has made it clear he will not resign but his apology today was necessary," said David Bernstein, the FA's chairman. "His initial comments were wrong and irresponsible. A handshake at the end of the game does not draw a line under racial abuse."

A statement released by Fifpro read: "We were surprised to learn of the statements made by Mr Blatter. [These] statements are rather clumsy. Racism remains a huge problem in football, on the pitch and in the stadiums. Fifpro is well aware of this, and so is Mr Blatter. In the past, we have worked successfully with Fifa in the fight against racism, but since the 2010 World Cup in South Africa, Fifa has hardly made itself heard, which is rather sad."

Blatter can, at least, count on the support of his friend Sexwale. "It takes a big man to say he is sorry," said the former anti-Apartheid activist.

"I think for him to bend his knee like this shows the way. I hope it will help us send the message of anti-racism worldwide."

'Wrong and misplaced' - Blatter reaction

Neil Lennon

"For the head of Fifa to come out and totally miss the point is pretty upsetting for a lot of people."

Arsène Wenger

"You are not always politically correct on the pitch. The question [is]: do you punish it or not? And if you want to get it out you have to punish it."

David Beckham

"[Racism] can't be swept under the carpet, it can't be sorted out with a handshake. That's not the way of the world and that's not how racism should be treated."

Neil Warnock

"Racism does happen on the field of play and the shaking of a hand just doesn't put it right. But who is going to sack him? I don't see that anybody is going to sack him."

David Moyes

"I don't think those comments have helped. They were completely wrong and misplaced, especially when we have one or two things going on in this country."

Steve Bruce

"It's disappointing. Sepp Blatter, as always, seems to put his foot in it for some reason."

Andre Villas-Boas

"It's good that person is able to come out and retract the words. There are things that should have been avoided in the first place. But at least there is humility."

Fine for abuse of England players

The Bulgarian Football Union was yesterday fined the pathetic sum of €40,000 (£34,200) by Uefa for racist abuse by their supporters during a Euro 2012 qualifier against England in September. Uefa said home fans had directed racist chants at England players during in Sofia. Although the fine is more than double that imposed on the Croatian FA for racist chants by their fans in a game against England in 2008 it is hardly hard-hitting.

News
people

Top Gear presenter is no stranger to foot-in-mouth controversy

Arts and Entertainment
Imelda Staunton as Dolores Umbridge in the Harry Potter films
books

New essay by JK Rowling went live on Pottermore site this morning

News
Mike Tyson has led an appalling and sad life, but are we not a country that gives second chances?
people

Mike Tyson branded 'superhero' after a surprise good turn

Sport
A Rutherford Raiders shirt with the PornHub sponsorship
football

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Charlie Sheen said he would
tv

Charlie Sheen could be set to revive his role as a hedonistic womaniser

Life and Style
Jamie Oliver’s version of Jollof rice led thousands of people to post angry comments on his website
food + drink
Arts and Entertainment
glastonbury
News
Apple CEO Timothy Cook
people
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Vividly drawn: Timothy Spall in Mike Leigh’s ‘Mr Turner’
film

Review: Mike Leigh's biopic is a rambling, rich character study

Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

The drugs revolution starts now as MPs agree its high time for change

The drugs revolution starts now as MPs agree its high time for change

Commons debate highlights growing cross-party consensus on softening UK drugs legislation, unchanged for 43 years
The camera is turned on tabloid editors in Richard Peppiatt's 'One Rogue Reporter'

Gotcha! The camera is turned on tabloid editors

Hugh Grant says Richard Peppiatt's 'One Rogue Reporter' documentary will highlight issues raised by Leveson
Fall of the Berlin Wall: It was thanks to Mikhail Gorbachev that this symbol of division fell

Fall of the Berlin Wall

It was thanks to Gorbachev that this symbol of division fell
Halloween 2014: What makes Ouija boards, demon dolls, and evil clowns so frightening?

What makes ouija boards and demon dolls scary?

Ouija boards, demon dolls, evil children and clowns are all classic tropes of horror, and this year’s Halloween releases feature them all. What makes them so frightening, decade after decade?
A safari in modern Britain: Rose Rouse reveals how her four-year tour of Harlesden taught her as much about the UK as it did about NW10

Rose Rouse's safari in modern Britain

Rouse decided to walk and talk with as many different people as possible in her neighbourhood of Harlesden and her experiences have been published in a new book
Welcome to my world of no smell and odd tastes: How a bike accident left one woman living with unwanted food mash-ups

'My world of no smell and odd tastes'

A head injury from a bicycle accident had the surprising effect of robbing Nell Frizzell of two of her senses

Matt Parker is proud of his square roots

The "stand-up mathematician" is using comedy nights to preach maths to big audiences
Paul Scholes column: Beating Manchester City is vital part of life at Manchester United. This is first major test for Luke Shaw, Angel Di Maria and Radamel Falcao – it’s not a game to lose

Paul Scholes column

Beating City is vital part of life at United. This is first major test for Shaw, Di Maria and Falcao – it’s not a game to lose
Frank Warren: Call me an old git, but I just can't see that there's a place for women’s boxing

Frank Warren column

Call me an old git, but I just can't see that there's a place for women’s boxing
Adrian Heath interview: Former Everton striker prepares his Orlando City side for the MLS - and having Kaka in the dressing room

Adrian Heath's American dream...

Former Everton striker prepares his Orlando City side for the MLS - and having Kaka in the dressing room
Simon Hart: Manchester City will rise again but they need to change their attitude

Manchester City will rise again but they need to change their attitude

Manuel Pellegrini’s side are too good to fail and derby allows them to start again, says Simon Hart
Isis in Syria: A general reveals the lack of communication with the US - and his country's awkward relationship with their allies-by-default

A Syrian general speaks

A senior officer of Bashar al-Assad’s regime talks to Robert Fisk about his army’s brutal struggle with Isis, in a dirty war whose challenges include widespread atrocities
‘A bit of a shock...’ Cambridge economist with Glasgow roots becomes Zambia’s acting President

‘A bit of a shock...’ Economist with Glasgow roots becomes Zambia’s acting President

Guy Scott's predecessor, Michael Sata, died in a London hospital this week after a lengthy illness
Fall of the Berlin Wall: History catches up with Erich Honecker - the East German leader who praised the Iron Curtain and claimed it prevented a Third World War

Fall of the Berlin Wall

History catches up with Erich Honecker - the East German leader who praised the Iron Curtain and claimed it prevented a Third World War
How to turn your mobile phone into easy money

Turn your mobile phone into easy money

There are 90 million unused mobiles in the UK, which would be worth £7bn if we cashed them in, says David Crookes