BAN RACISM SAYS SEPP

FIFA president Sepp Blatter has called for an end to racism and discrimination in soccer on the eve of the first World Cup finals to be held in Africa.

FIFA president Sepp Blatter has called for an end to racism and discrimination in soccer on the eve of the first World Cup finals to be held in Africa.

Blatter made this call at the Fifa's 60th annual congress in Johannesburg yesterday. Blatter, 74, who is due to stand for a fourth term of office next year, did not deliver an electioneering-style address to delegates from 207 of Fifa's 208 member countries.

Instead he concentrated on the world soccer governing body's aim to eradicate social vices that blight the game, particularly racism and discrimination.

"Football is a mirror of our society and is touched by its vices. Violence, cheating, doping, betting, discrimination and racism, these are all in our game," Blatter said.

"We have started to eliminate them. One is practically eliminated - this is doping.

"But in this World Cup in South Africa, and specifically through this congress, we declare that we are against discrimination.

"Never again should we have any problems on any field or in a stadium concerning discrimination or racism.

"If we are not able to do that through this 60th Fifa Congress, then we never will. We must end discrimination and racism."

The poignancy of his words, delivered in a nation that was banned from Fifa and world sport for over three decades because of the racist apartheid policies of the past, was not lost on delegates who applauded his remarks.

Blatter said holding the finals in Africa completed the vision of former Fifa president Joao Havelange, who wanted to make football the global game when he became president in 1974. Several junior Fifa tournaments have already been held in Africa.

"Up until 2002 the World Cup was only for Europe and the Americas. We. went to Asia, but there was still one continent that had not been touched. Africa. It was not easy, much has been said about it.

"But now the World Cup is here. This is touching the world."

Local Organising Committee chairperson Irvin Khoza said the World Cup would help bury the stereotypical image of Africa. A successful World Cup would prove the cynics wrong. "Fifa has not taken anything, it has given, given, given," he said. - Reuters

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