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Friday, 25 November 2011

Sepp Blatter: Global Village Idiot

The Buddha once said, "The fool who knows he is a fool is wise. Whereas the fool who does not know he is a fool might become the President of FIFA."

November has been a difficult month so far for Football and its aspirations to kick out racism from the sport. In the English Premiership alone there are two serious causes for concern. Luis Suarez was charged by the FA over allegations that he racially abused Patrice Evra. And England captain John Terry continues to be the subject of both an FA enquiry and a formal Police investigation into claims that he racially abused Anton Ferdinand.

TIme, then, for Football's chief to step up and assure the world that matters are in hand. This is, after all, the world game. And the English league is the most visible of all. Problems there can severely tarnish football's reputation around the globe.

This is what Sepp Blatter said when asked directly whether racism was a problem in football, pin an interview by CNN:

"I would deny it. There is no racism. There is maybe one of the players towards another - he has a word or a gesture which is not the correct one. But the one who is affected by that, he should say 'this is a game'. We are in a game, and at the end of the game, we shake hands, and this can happen, because we have worked so hard against racism and discrimination."

Blatter: 'There is no racism' on pitch by CNN_International

Not surprisingly, the reaction to these comments has been instant and damning. Rio Ferdinand - via the medium of Twitter - probably said it best: "Your comments on racism are so condescending it's almost laughable. If fans shout racist chants but shake our hands is that OK?"

Blatter seems to make a couple of basic, but serious errors. First, professional football is not a 'game' in the sense Blatter implies. Liverpool and Manchester United do not lay down jumpers for goal-posts, they do not switch players if one team dominates the game, and they do not go for a jolly good drink after the match.

Second, even if professional football were the sepia-toned game he imagines, Blatter is wrong to think that morally objectionable behaviour is allowed. In fact, I cannot think of any context in which sport takes place where racial, or any other form of, abuse would be acceptable, or sorted out with a handshake. It wouldn't be permissible on a school field, nor in a Sunday league match, and it is not acceptable in the Premiership.

But most alarmingly of all, Blatter does not really deny that racism exists in football. He just thinks it is not very serious.

And that is why this latest incident in the tenure of FIFA's boss is so worrying. Racism has been perennial problem for football, and the laudable initiatives to address it, like Kick It Out, can be undermined by the staggering complacency and arrogance of the man at the top.

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