FIFA President Sepp Blatter
snapped at colleagues and looked beset by nerves on Wednesday 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
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
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 football.
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.
"There is zero tolerance [for] racism, zero tolerance [for]
discrimination in all activities in the field of play and
outside the field."
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."
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 football, 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
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."
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