Blatter hits back at Rio Ferdinand

Sepp Blatter turned to Twitter on Thursday to respond directly to soccer star Rio Ferdinand, who had condemned the FIFA president for claiming that racist abuse between players on the field should be settled by a handshake.

Manchester United defender Ferdinand labeled Blatter’s comments "so condescending its almost laughable" and mocked the soccer chief’s attempt to calm the furious backlash.

Blatter had issued a statement on the FIFA website under a photograph showing him hugging black South African official Tokyo Sexwale.

"Fifa clear up the blatter comments with a pic of him posing with a black man..I need the hand covering eyes symbol!!" Ferdinand wrote on Twitter late Wednesday.

Blatter hit back hours later in what was his first direct response to a player since joining the social networking site on the eve of the 2010 World Cup.

"The ‘black man’ as you call him has a name: Tokyo Sexwale. He has done tremendous work against racism and apartheid in Africa," Blatter tweeted. "We have done several joint activities to raise awareness on the struggle against racism in South Africa."

He added, "FIFA has a long standing and proud record in the area of anti-discrimination which will continue," before linking to a recent interview he gave to FIFA’s website on his approach to combating discrimination in the game.

Ferdinand appeared unimpressed by Blatter’s response, replying, "To say what you said about racism in football spoke volumes of your ignorance to the subject. I guess you now have the full support of all the women, gay community + people against racism in football…."

The defender also emphasized the role the sport can play in fighting racism internationally, saying, "If we want 2 stamp out racism in society a football pitch is a good place to start-loved by billions of people around the world."

Blatter, who was re-elected unopposed for his fourth term as FIFA president in June, faced more calls to resign Thursday following his controversial comments to CNN World Sport.

The 75-year-old Swiss had said Wednesday, "There is no racism, but maybe there is a word or gesture which is not the correct one … The one affected by this should say, ‘This is a game,’ and shake hands."

His comments came on the same day that the English Football Association charged Liverpool’s Luis Suarez with racially abusing Manchester United’s Patrice Evra. In a separate, high-profile racism investigation, England captain John Terry is alleged to have abused Rio Ferdinand’s brother, QPR defender Anton Ferdinand. Terry denies the allegation.