Sexwale: Blatter's comments 'problematic'

BY foxsports • November 18, 2011

FIFA President Sepp Blatter was wrong to say that racism in football could be solved with handshakes and his comments were ''problematic'' and ''damaging,'' the South African politician dragged into the uproar said Friday.

Tokyo Sexwale, the former anti-apartheid activist pictured hugging Blatter on FIFA's website, also said he wanted to believe that the use of his image was not ''damage control'' by Blatter and world football's ruling body.

''My picture is used from time to time by FIFA,'' Sexwale said. ''I don't want to suspect any motive behind the utilization of that picture, but I indicated that perceptions, impressions could be created worldwide in certain circles worldwide that this was an attempt to damage control or to clean one's image.''

But Sexwale, who is also a member of FIFA's Committee for Fair Play and Social Responsibility, was not willing ''to kick a man when he is down'' and had accepted Blatter's apology for the comments.

However, he strongly disagreed with the sentiments expressed by world football's highest figure apparently downplaying the seriousness of racism in the football.

''You can't wash it (racism) away with a handshake,'' Sexwale said. ''Once you use a racial slur, it doesn't go away. You can't exchange it with a jersey. You can't mitigate it with a handshake.''

A Robben Island prisoner alongside Nelson Mandela during apartheid and now a South African government minister, Sexwale said he could feel that Blatter was sorry for his comments when he spoke to the FIFA president by telephone earlier Friday.

Blatter's comments unleashed a firestorm of criticism against him and the FIFA president has now said sorry.

''I could tell that this was a man full of contrition,'' Sexwale said of the phone conversation. ''It was Blatter himself. You could feel that this was a man that is sorry. This furore, I don't think it's a small thing for such a powerful, powerful person.''

Blatter apologized publicly on Friday, saying he ''deeply regretted'' using ''unfortunate words'' earlier this week in the TV interview when he said players could put racist abuse behind them with a handshake after the match.

''The statements that Mr. Blatter uttered were problematic,'' Sexwale said at his office in Johannesburg. ''I think that when Mr. Blatter said 'let's shake hands to do away with that,' I want to believe that he was genuine. I think it was a mistake, and that's why I'm saying it's unfortunate.''

While saying Blatter should not be ''crucified'' for what he said, Sexwale noted it was ''quite damaging.''

''I was very concerned myself,'' Sexwale said. ''This is a big story. FIFA is a huge organization worldwide. Blatter is a very big man, and to bend his knee is important.

''Such statements are quite damaging but the magnitude in terms of the damage cannot be known. We will see as the situation progresses.''

Sexwale said Blatter's future and any further action against him - including whether or not he should lose his job - was now a matter for FIFA's executive committee.

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