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Football Whispers

Berlusconi critical of Blatter comments

AC Milan president Silvio Berlusconi has joined the growing list of voices to publicly question FIFA president Sepp Blatter's views on racism in football.

• Blog: Boateng makes a stand

Milan midfielder Kevin-Prince Boateng led his team-mates off the pitch after being racially abused by fans of Pro Patrio during a friendly last Thursday. Although Blatter was quoted as saying there should be "zero tolerance" for racism in football he felt leaving the pitch was running away from the problem.

However, in an interview with radio station RTL, Berlusconi has rejected Blatter's sentiment and congratulated his players on their stance.

"I am of the opposite view," he said. "In fact, I thanked and congratulated my players for their decision to leave the field during the friendly in Busto Arsizio.

"This is an uncivilised problem that needs to be stopped, people should not allow these things to happen. Teams out on the pitch should set an example of civility and the educational role of football should not be underestimated.

"It's not only about the behaviour of players in the game, but of the public, and everyone needs to avoid giving Italy a negative image."

Piara Powar, the executive director of anti-racist campaign group Football Against Racism in Europe (FARE), has also strongly objected to Blatter's opinion, labelling it an "ill-thought out" statement.

"We disagree entirely with the idea that Kevin-Prince Boateng ran away from the Milan match in which he was subjected to racial abuse," he said. "It's a nonsensical suggestion.

"What does Sepp Blatter know about what it is to be abused or excluded because you are an ethnic minority, and what might be the right or wrong way to respond? The point is that the hard-won processes put in place to deal with issues of discriminatory abuse that apply from referees all the way up to international disciplinary commissions, are not being implemented.

"There seem to be so many statements being made off the cuff by football administrators on important issues of policy that are ill-thought out. The message going out is one of indifference by governing bodies at all levels."

Blatter had told United Arab Emirates newspaper The National: "Walk off? No. I don't think that is the solution. "But the Italian federation has yet to provide FIFA with the report detailing what exactly has happened.

"I don't think you can run away, because eventually you can run away if you lose a match. This issue is a very touchy subject, but I repeat there is zero tolerance of racism in the stadium; we have to go against that. The only solution is to be very harsh with the sanctions - and the sanctions must be a deduction of points or something similar."

Information from the Press Association was used in this report.


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