FIFA President denies racism in football
05:37 - Source: CNN

Story highlights

Sepp Blatter tells CNN World Sport's Pedro Pinto there is no on-field racism in football

FIFA president says players who are abused during a match should say "it's a game"

Two high-profile cases involving racism allegations being dealt with in English game

Blatter underlines the work his organization has done to combat racism

CNN  — 

FIFA president Sepp Blatter has told CNN he believes there is no on-field racism in football and that players who think they have been abused should simply say “this is a game.”

The head of world soccer insisted FIFA had been tireless in their efforts to combat the specter of racism in football but suggested any player who is abused during a game should shake hands with their opponent upon the final whistle and move on.

The football authorities in England are currently dealing with two high-profile allegations of player-on-player racism, involving Chelsea and England captain John Terry and Liverpool’s Uruguayan striker Luis Suarez. Both players deny the claims.

When asked by CNN World Sport anchor Pedro Pinto if racism exists on the field of play Blatter said: “I would deny it.

Blatter comments spark Twitter fury

“There is no racism, there is maybe one of the players towards the other, he has a word or a gesture which is not the correct one, but also the one who is affected by that, he should say it’s a game, we are in a game.

“At the end of the game, we shake hands, this can happen, because we have worked so hard against racism and discrimination.”

This year has also seen allegations of high-profile racism by fans.

Former Brazil defender Robert Carlos walked off the pitch during a Russian league match after a banana was thrown at him from the stands, while the Malaysian Football Association was forced to apologize to Chelsea in July when their Israeli midfielder Yossi Benayoun was subject to racial slurs during a pre-season encounter.

CNN Blog: How should football tackle racism?

On Wednesday the English Football Association (FA) announced they had charged Liverpool player Suarez over a clash with Manchester United’s Patrice Evra during an English Premier League match in October.

Evra alleged the Uruguayan had aimed racial taunts at him – a claim Suarez denies.

In a statement on their official web site the FA said Suarez is alleged to have used abusive language towards his opponent, including “a reference to the ethnic origin and/or color and/or race” of Evra.

London’s Metropolitan Police is investigating allegations that Terry racially abused Queens Park Rangers defender Anton Ferdinand during an English Premier League match last month. Terry denies the allegations.

In his interview with CNN, Blatter, who was re-elected unopposed as the head of world football despite allegations of corruption surrounding the voting process for the right to host the 2018 and 2022 World Cups, championed his organization’s commitment to tackling racism.

“I think the whole world is aware of the efforts we are making against racism and discrimination,” he added.

“And, on the field of play sometimes you say something that is not very correct, but then at the end of the game, the game is over and you have the next game where you can behave better.”

Blatter’s comments provoked an immediate response within soccer.

Manchester United’s Rio Ferdinand, brother of Anton, took to Twitter to say: “Tell me I have just read Sepp Blatter’s comments on racism in football wrong …. if not then I am astonished.

“I feel stupid for thinking that football was taking a leading role against racism ….. it seems it was just on mute for a while.”

The ‘Kick It Out’ campaign, who work to eradicate racism from football in England and Europe, said Blatter’s comments were “worryingly out of touch.”

A statement from Blatter was later posted on FIFA’s official web site, in which he sought to clarify his comments. It read: “I would like to make it very clear, I am committed to the fight against racism and any type of discrimination in football and in society.

“My comments have been misunderstood. What I wanted to express is that, as football players, during a match, you have “battles” with your opponents, and sometimes things are done which are wrong.

“But, normally, at the end of the match, you apologize to your opponent if you had a confrontation during the match, you shake hands, and when the game is over, it is over. Anyone who has played a football match, or a match in any sport, knows that this is the case.

“Having said that, I want to stress again that I do not want to diminish the dimension of the problem of racism in society and in sport. I am committed to fighting this plague and kicking it out of football.”