Sepp Blatter: ‘I can only say I am sorry’

Blatter told the BBC in an interview in Zurich that he “deeply regretted” using “unfortunate words” earlier this week, when he said any racist abuse on the soccer field could be settled by a handshake at the end of the match.

“When you have done something which was not totally correct, I can only say I am sorry for all those people affected by my declarations,” Blatter said Friday. “It hurts and I am still hurting because I couldn’t envisage such a reaction.”

Blatter, who was re-elected to a four-year term in June, has faced calls in Britain for his resignation but ruled out leaving his post.

“I cannot resign,” he told the BBC. “Why should I? To leave would be totally unfair and not compatible with my fighting spirit, my character, my energy.”

Blatter insisted his “fight against racism and discrimination will go on.”

He also said any players found guilty of racism on the pitch should be thrown out of the game.

“Zero tolerance,” he said. “This was a good lesson for me as well.”

British Prime Minister David Cameron joined the wave of condemnation of Blatter on Thursday, saying “it’s appalling to suggest that racism in any way should be accepted as part of the game.”

While Cameron stopped short of calling for Blatter’s resignation, British Sports Minister Hugh Robertson said the FIFA leader should go “for the sake of the game.”

Racism in soccer is a major issue in England, where authorities are investigating Liverpool’s Luis Suarez and Chelsea’s John Terry over allegations they racially abused black players during Premier League matches.

Blatter’s latest gaffe follows previous verbal missteps such as suggesting that female players should wear tighter shorts, and gay fans should refrain from having sex at the 2022 World Cup in Qatar where homosexual acts are illegal.

Blatter managed to further discredit FIFA just weeks after he won some praise for promising to confront allegations of financial wrongdoing by senior colleagues as part of wide-ranging reforms following damaging allegations of bribery, vote-rigging and ticket scams.

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