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English pile the heat on Blatter over racism

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LOS ANGELES, California, November 18 – Former England captain David Beckham Thursday condemned FIFA president Sepp Blatter’s remarks on racism, but stopped short of saying Blatter should resign as head of world football’s governing body.

“I think the comments were appalling. I think a lot of people have said that,” Beckham said at a press conference to preview his Los Angeles Galaxy’s clash with the Houston Dynamo on Sunday for the MLS Cup.

“I don’t think the comments were very good for this game,” he added.

Blatter’s suggestion in a television interview that disputes on the pitch involving racist abuse should be resolved by a handshake sparked a storm in England, where he was already unpopular for the way in which he and FIFA dealt with the country’s failed bid to stage the 2018 World Cup.

British Prime Minister David Cameron also called the comments “appalling” and the head of England’s Professional Footballers Association, Gordon Taylor, also said Blatter should quit.

“He is the leader of world football, he has to be a leader in anti-racism,” Taylor told Sky News.

Blatter’s comments came as Liverpool’s Uruguayan international Luis Suarez was charged by the English Football Association for allegedly racially abusing Manchester United’s French international Patrice Evra.

England captain John Terry is also facing a police and FA investigation over allegations he hurled racist abuse at QPR defender Anton Ferdinand.

In an interview with CNN on Wednesday, Blatter said the sport did not have a problem with racism, but Beckham said that was wishful thinking.

“I have no power with who goes and who stays within FIFA and have no wish to have that,” Beckham said. “But there obviously is and has been racism throughout soccer and life in the last few years.”

Beckham said he thought the FA had made “huge strides in the last 10 or 15 years” in battling racism in the game.

“But it is still there and it can’t just be swept under the carpet, can’t be sorted out with just a handshake. That’s not how racism should be treated.”

Meanwhile, British Prime Minister David Cameron said it was “appalling” of FIFA president Sepp Blatter to downplay the impact of racism as the global football supremo faced calls to quit for his controversial comments.

Blatter suggested in a television interview that disputes on the pitch involving racist abuse should be resolved by a handshake.

However, Cameron, in a statement issued Thursday, said: “It’s appalling to suggest that racism in any way should be accepted as part of the game.

“A lot of work has gone into ridding racism from all aspects of our society, including football. As many of our top sports stars have rightly pointed out, now is not the time for complacency.”

Cameron’s comments came after his sports minister, Hugh Robertson, urged Blatter — already unpopular in England for the way in which he and FIFA dealt with the country’s failed bid to stage the 2018 World Cup — to resign.

“Sepp Blatter’s comments are completely unacceptable,” Robertson said.

“This is the latest episode that calls into question whether this man should be the head of world football.

“For the sake of the game, he should go. We have been consistent in our calls for improved governance at FIFA and this underlines the need for that once more.”

The head of England’s Professional Footballers Association, Gordon Taylor, also said Blatter should quit.

“He is the leader of world football, he has to be a leader in anti-racism,” Taylor told Sky News.

“Racism is divisive and for him to say the player on the receiving end should forget about it at the end of the game and shake hands… We are going backwards… It is not good enough, it’s embarrassing.

“It is time for him to go.”

Herman Ouseley, a member of the House of Lords who chairs the anti-racism Kick It Out group, said Blatter had no “understanding of what racism is”.

“Enlightened leadership at this level is needed. Minor matters on the field often can be resolved with a handshake. Racism is not a minor matter,” he said.

Blatter’s comments came as Liverpool’s Uruguayan international Luis Suarez was charged by the English Football Association for allegedly racially abusing Manchester United’s French international Patrice Evra.

England captain John Terry is also facing a police and FA investigation over allegations he hurled racist abuse at QPR defender Anton Ferdinand.

In an interview with CNN on Wednesday, Blatter said the sport did not have a problem with racism.

“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,” the 75-year-old Swiss said.

“But also the one who is affected by that, he should say that 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 later issued a statement clarifying his remarks.

“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,” he said.

But former England captain Rio Ferdinand addressed Blatter directly via Twitter: “Your comments on racism are so condescending it’s almost laughable. If fans shout racist chants but shake our hands is that ok?”

Blatter on Thursday reiterated FIFA’s “proud record” of fighting discrimination in a post on Twitter.

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