FIFA chief urges stronger action in Serbian racism case

Published 11:31 AM EST, Sat December 15, 2012
 FIFA president Joseph Blatter answers questions during a press conference in Tokyo on December 15.
PHOTO: AFP/Getty Images
FIFA president Joseph Blatter answers questions during a press conference in Tokyo on December 15.

Story highlights

Head of world football says he will talk to European counterpart about Serbia case

Sepp Blatter says racism and discrimination deserve "harsh punishments"

FIFA president expresses concern about 2014 World Cup safety after Brazil violence

He says Indonesia lucky not to be suspended as a FIFA member nation

(CNN) —  

Stronger sanctions should have been taken against the Serbian Football Association, according to FIFA president Sepp Blatter – who said that “zero tolerance” policies against racism need to be upheld.

The Serbian FA was fined $105,000 by UEFA on Thursday following an Under-21 match where opposing England players said they were racially abused. The fine was less than the punishment handed to a player at the Euro 2012 finals for exposing undershorts bearing the logo of a betting company.

European soccer’s body also banned two Serbian coaches and a total of six players from both sides, while also ordering the eastern European nation to play its next competitive Under-21 match behind closed doors.

UEFA was widely criticized, especially in England, for not taking a stronger stance – and it was reported in the UK press that president Michel Platini might seek to appeal his own organization’s ruling.

“Not only racism, but discrimination has no place in football and there is zero tolerance for it,” Blatter told reporters at a press conference in Japan on Saturday.

“I just learned yesterday what the (Serbia) decision was and I’m sure we will also take it up with UEFA at the level of governance, that there should be in all football, with every confederation and all national associations strong, harsh punishment when it comes to racism and discrimination.”

Blatter told CNN last year that racism on the pitch could be “settled with a handshake” but following the furore those comments caused he has pledged his commitment to battling the problem.

“I will take up a discussion with the president of UEFA, but I don’t know if he has an influence on his disciplinary committee,” the 76-year-old said in Tokyo when asked about the Serbia-England case.

“We will ask for details of the file but I repeat we have it in our organization that there must be very, very strong, strong punishment.”

In a wide-ranging press conference following Friday’s FIFA executive committee meeting, Blatter also addressed concerns about security at the 2014 World Cup in Brazil following the midweek problems at a top South American club match in Sao Paulo.

The second leg of the Copa Sudamerica final was abandoned at halftime after visiting Argentine team Tigres claimed they had been threatened with guns by security officials as they left the pitch.

Sao Paulo has experienced a drastic rise in crime this year, and Brazil has boosted its security budget in order to quell concerns that visiting fans will not be safe.

“Such an incident I have to say is also a warning for the organizers in the World Cup – a warning for all organizers about what will happen,” said Blatter, who is in Japan for the Club World Cup, which climaxes with Sunday’s final between Brazilian team Corinthians and European champions Chelsea.

“Security is not a matter of sports organizers, it’s a matter of the authorities, police, army, whatever as we have no power in football to change security,” Blatter added.

He said world football’s governing body had given Indonesian soccer authorities a “Christmas gift” by agreeing to a new deadline to resolve a two-year power conflict.

The Indonesian Football Association (PSSI) is battling for control with the breakaway Indonesian Soccer Rescue Committee (KPSI) – a struggle that has been brought to prominence by the death of a Paraguayan player who was owed four months’ wages.

Diego Mendieta died in hospital after contracting an illness, having been unable to return home to his family due to lack of funds after his contract expired.

“It has been two years now, two years that they have tried to put together the two parts of the football organizations, but they couldn’t do it,” Blatter said.

“They have asked for another three months to be given, until March next year, and also the Asian Football Confederation was advocating that. I think it was quite a Christmas gift to Indonesia that they haven’t been suspended.

“They have a league but the players of that league cannot play in the national team. Something is wrong.

“Since 2011 we have tried to bring together these two different halves of Indonesian football. We have given until the next meeting of the Executive Committee on the 20th and 21st of March next year to bring their house in order.”