FIFA President Sepp Blatter hits back at Rio Ferdinand on Twitter in 'handshake' racism feud
ZURICH - Sepp Blatter responded to Manchester United defender Rio Ferdinand's criticism on Thursday after the FIFA president said on-field incidents of racial abuse could be settled by a handshake.
Ferdinand wrote on Twitter on Wednesday that Blatter's views were "so condescending its almost laughable."
The England player also posted a sarcastic message after FIFA's website published a statement from Blatter as the racism furor escalated, accompanied by a photograph of him hugging Tokyo Sexwale, a black official from South Africa.
Blatter used the social networking site, which he joined ahead of the 2010 World Cup in South Africa, to direct a tweet at an individual user for the first time.
"(at)rioferdy5 The 'black man' as you call him has a name: Tokyo Sexwale," Blatter wrote.
Blatter said Sexwale, a South African government minister and former Robben Island prisoner, "had done tremendous work against racism and apartheid in Africa."
"We have done several joint activities to raise awareness on the struggle against racism in South Africa," Blatter wrote, defending his under-fire organization. "FIFA has a long standing and proud record in the area of anti-discrimination which will continue."
Blatter's comments Wednesday in television interviews seemed at odds with his pledge after being re-elected in June that FIFA would not tolerate a lack of respect on and off the field.
Asked if soccer had a problem with racist abuse among players, Blatter downplayed the issue and said players involved in such spats should settle the issue with a handshake.
The Swiss official's opinion sparked outrage in England where two top players are being investigated for racially insulting opponents during recent Premier League games.
Ferdinand — whose brother Anton was the target of an alleged slur by England captain John Terry — led the criticism, saying on Twitter that he was "astonished" by Blatter's comments.
Within hours, the English Football Association charged Liverpool forward Luis Suarez with racially abusing Manchester United defender Patrice Evra, who is black.
Liverpool said Suarez will plead not guilty and insisted that the club is "fully supportive of Luis in this matter."
Terry has said his comments were taken out of context, but is being investigated by the FA and London police.
Later Thursday, UEFA will prosecute a case in which England was the victim of alleged discrimination.
The Bulgarian soccer federation has been charged after its fans allegedly directed verbal abuse at England players during a European Championship qualifier in Sofia in September.