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Women give Blatter short shrift

FIFA president Sepp Blatter believes women's football should be 'more feminine'
FIFA president Sepp Blatter believes women's football should be 'more feminine'

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LONDON, England (Reuters) -- FIFA President Sepp Blatter drew condemnation from women's sports figures on Friday for saying the future of women's football could rest with tighter shorts.

Blatter's remarks, printed on Sunday by Swiss newspaper Sonntagsblick, were translated by Britain's Guardian newspaper on Friday.

"Come on, let's get women to play in different and more feminine garb than the men," Blatter told Sonntagsblick in an interview.

Asked if he meant short skirts, Blatter said: "No, but in tighter shorts for example. In volleyball women wear different clothes from the men.

"Beautiful women play football nowadays, excuse me for saying so," he added.

Blatter said women already played with a lighter ball, making the game more feminine. "Why not in fashion?" he asked.

Helen Donohue of the Women's Sports Foundation told Reuters: "This comment from the most powerful man in football -- it's belittling and an awful shame.

Future is female

"In the past, he's been quoted as saying 'the future is female' and he's been a great supporter of the game.

"Hopefully, he'll be more than embarrassed."

England goalkeeper Pauline Cope told the Guardian: "He doesn't know what he is talking about," adding that women did not play with a lighter ball.

"It's completely irresponsible for a man in a powerful position to make comments like this."

Fulham manager Marieanne Spacey told the newspaper: "Surely it's about skill and tactical ability first and how people look second."

But FIFA spokesman Andreas Herren said the translated remarks did not capture the spirit of the original interview.

Herren said Blatter had talked about the need for women's football to attract different sponsors, possibly from the fashion and cosmetics industries, rather than depend on sponsors from the men's game.

Donohue said it was a shame that it took controversy to put women's football -- which FIFA estimates is played by 30 million worldwide -- on sports pages.

"Within the next ten years, on a global basis you'll see as many women playing football as men," Donohue said.

"That's what we want to talk about... about the technical ability and about the development of it in this country, not how tight the shorts are.

"(But) we do respect the fact that it's a commercial game. Whether you're David Beckham or Marieanne Spacey, we're not naive enough to think that it's not a factor as the game develops."

Copyright 2004 Reuters. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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