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FIFA chief Blatter must quit, says anti-racism campaigner

By Gary Morley, CNN
April 5, 2013 -- Updated 1925 GMT (0325 HKT)
  • Sepp Blatter causes angry response after remarks made during a speech
  • FIFA president's comments cast doubt on his intent to crack down on racism
  • Anti-racism campaigner says that Blatter should resign from his long-held role
  • FIFA insists that Blatter's comments do not contradict his past statements

(CNN) -- As the head of world soccer, Sepp Blatter has been trying hard to address the problem of racism in football since infamously telling CNN in 2011 that instances of it on the pitch could with solved "with a handshake."

Now, however, he is facing calls to quit as FIFA president following comments on Friday which have led to accusations that he has gone soft on fighting the issue.

"Sepp Blatter is erratic, his behavior is erratic, his declarations are erratic. He should just quit. It's completely unacceptable, what he said," Valeriu Nicolae of the Football Against Racism in Europe (FARE) group told CNN Friday.

After supporting Kevin-Prince Boateng, who walked off in protest after being racially abused during a friendly match in January, Blatter last month invited the AC Milan player to join the ruling body's new anti-racism taskforce.

Read: Boateng wants refs to have greater power in racism battle

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But the 77-year-old appeared to have taken a big step backwards with his comments on Friday, casting doubt on his previous statements that offending clubs should face points deductions or even be relegated.

"Can we bring an end to violence or racism by docking points or relegating a team? Or would such measures lead people to come to games to get the match abandoned," Blatter said in a speech at a meeting of the company Early Warning System, with which FIFA works in its fight against match-fixing.

"We should do all we can but there's a risk that if we have matches replayed or if we punish clubs on the sporting front, it will open the door to hooligan groups who will come to deliberately cause trouble."

FIFA confirmed to CNN that the quotes were correct, but insisted that Blatter had not reversed his position on punishments for racism -- and that the comments merely raised the challenges faced in implementing such penalties.

Read: FIFA chief vows to hit racists hard

"Today he reiterated the need for punishment that hits hard against any form of racism," a spokesperson from FIFA's media department said.

"He underlined that fines achieve little, but points deductions and exclusion from competitions would be effective measures. He also stressed that prevention must go hand in hand with punishment.

"He acknowledged that the implementation of these sanctions might pose some challenges, such as a potential risk that the system could be abused by some spectators for the only purpose of getting a very unfair advantage for their team.

"Such issues will be carefully examined and will in no way alter the FIFA President's very strong commitment towards the eradication of the racism scourge from football and his zero tolerance towards any form of racism."

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Nicolae's call for Blatter to resign -- and thus end a reign that began in 1998 -- was supported by others on online social media.

"Sepp Blatter just gave every racist in football a licence to abuse. Even by his standards this is utterly outrageous," CNN's Piers Morgan wrote on Twitter, adding to the #Blatterout hashtag.

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Nicolae said Blatter is out of touch with the realities of the game.

"Maybe it would be good for Sepp Blatter to spend some time outside of fancy meetings," he said.

"He would understand a lot more if he would come and see a game, see what is happening during the games and see what happens when you take the right measures.

"(What he said) makes absolutely no sense and goes against all our experience."

FARE works closely with European soccer's ruling body UEFA, monitoring crowds at matches and reporting any racist behavior that its staff witness.

UEFA has been criticized for what is seen as relatively light punishments for racist offenses, but has come down harder on offending clubs this season. Italy's Lazio has been punished on four occasions due to misbehavior by its fans.

"I have great confidence in UEFA," Nicolae said. "UEFA proved time and time again that they know what to do and they did the right thing. With FIFA I don't have that. Blatter is erratic and I think it's time for him to resign."

On Friday, the Greek football federation banned Giorgos Katidis for five club matches and fined the AEK Athens midfielder 1,000 euros ($1,300) following his Nazi-style goal celebration last month.

The ban is largely symbolic as the 20-year-old had already been suspended for the rest of this season by his club, and the federation had earlier banned him for life from representing his country.

Also on Friday, FIFA confirmed that Brazil will not be completely ready to host June's Confederations Cup -- a precursor event to next year's World Cup in the South American country.

"It will be a fantastic tournament -- but not all operational arrangements will be 100%" secretary general Jerome Valcke wrote in his monthly column on the FIFA website, on the same day of the inauguration of the third of the tournament's six host stadiums at the Arena Fonte Nova in Salvador.

He said work on venues in Recife, Brasilia and Rio de Janeiro (the redeveloped Maracana stadium) is due to be completed by the end of this month. There will be 12 grounds used at the 32-team World Cup, which will host 64 matches -- four times that of the eight-nation Confederations Cup.

"It is impossible to expect this to happen in the shortened preparation time -- in most cases, less than two months instead of the scheduled six -- due to the compromises we made with the cities," Valcke said.

"I want to reiterate: this will be impossible to repeat for the FIFA World Cup, and has been acknowledged by the federal government and LOC. The deadline for the FIFA World Cup stadiums delivery stands firm as December 2013. There will be no compromise."

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