Beckham: FIFA president's racism comments are 'not right'

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Story highlights

  • David Beckham says comments about racism by Sepp Blatter are "not right"
  • Superstar says head of world football should not be making such remarks
  • FIFA president apologizes for what he said, but refuses to resign
  • His interview with CNN World Sport has caused outrage around the world

Football superstar David Beckham has condemned controversial comments made by Sepp Blatter, who is refusing to stand down as FIFA president despite widespread criticism.

The head of world soccer sparked fury when he told CNN World Sport that racism is not a problem on the football field, and that any issue could be resolved by "shaking hands" after a match.

Beckham, who was a leading figure in England's failed bid to host the 2018 World Cup, said that the Swiss administrator had made a big mistake.

"Something has to happen because those kind of remarks from a man who is so high up in the game is obviously not right," the 36-year-old told CNN ahead of Sunday's MLS Cup final between his Los Angeles Galaxy team and Houston Dynamo.

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"And, it's obviously something that I don't personally agree with, and I think everyone else doesn't agree with. Things can't be just sorted out by a handshake, simple as that.

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"What will happen with Sepp Blatter in the future, I have no idea and obviously I have not control over that. But, all I care about is keeping racism out of soccer and out of sport, because it's not just in sport, it's in life in general. It needs to be stopped, and we hope we're a part of that."

    Former England international Ian Wright revealed on Friday that he now cannot host the prestigious FIFA Ballon D'Or awards ceremony in January due to his anger at Blatter's comments.

    "There is simply no way I feel I could stand on that stage in Zurich, in front of Lionel Messi, Pele, David Beckham, Ronaldo and co., feeling like it was a token gesture. And believe me, that's how it would feel now," he told The Sun newspaper, for which is a columnist.

    "It would be like he was saying, 'I'm no racist -- look, I like this black guy so much I've got my arm around him, he's doing my show.' It would be very, very uncomfortable in front of 140 countries watching. "

    Blatter, in his fourth term as president after standing unopposed in July's election, has apologized for offending people. But on Friday he insisted he would not accept demands that he resign from anti-racism campaigners, England's players' association chief Gordon Taylor and UK Prime Minister David Cameron.

    "I cannot resign. Why should I?" Blatter told the BBC. When you are faced with a problem you have to face the problem. To leave would be totally unfair and not compatible with my fighting spirit, my character, my energy.

    "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."

    When asked by CNN's Pedro Pinto if racism exists on the field of play, Blatter said: "I would deny it.

    "There is no racism, there is maybe one of the players towards the other, he has a word or a gesture which is not the correct one, but also the one who is affected by that, he should say it's a game, we are in a game.

    "At the end of the game, we shake hands, this can happen, because we have worked so hard against racism and discrimination."

    The comments sparked outrage in the football world, and Blatter released a statement on FIFA's website soon after trying to clarify his stance.

    "I think the whole world is aware of the efforts we are making against racism and discrimination," he said.

    "And, on the field of play sometimes you say something that is not very correct, but then at the end of the game, the game is over and you have the next game where you can behave better."

    However, he was criticized on Twitter by many contributors including England international Rio Ferdinand, whose younger brother Anton has accused Chelsea captain John Terry of making racially abusive comments to him during a Premier League match.

    "I feel stupid for thinking that football was taking a leading role against racism ..... it seems it was just on mute for a while," the Manchester United star wrote on the social networking website.

    Sol Campbell, a former England international, told CNN that Blatter's comments had sent football back 40 years.

    "His remarks show he is completely out of touch. The longer he stays the weaker FIFA become," Campbell said.

    "I think he has to step down very, very quickly. He should not wait to be sacked, he should have a little bit of honor and step down."