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In the wake of claims by FIFA president Sepp Blatter that there was no racism in football, Manchester United footballer Rio Ferdinand has taken to Twitter to express his dismay, resulting in a flood of tweets from the two.
Blatter has faced worldwide condemnation and calls for his resignation following the comments. When CNN asked him if racism still existed on the pitch, Blatter denied it and said such incidents should simply be settled by a handshake at the end of the match. In an interview with Al-Jazeera, he made the wide-sweeping pronouncement that “After the World Cup in South Africa, it was my opinion that racism, discrimination has disappeared.”
Ferdinand was quick to express his feelings on the comments.
In the face of increasing recriminations over the comments, Blatter also took to his Twitter account.
Things turned nasty between the two, however, after Ferdinand mocked the choice of image FIFA had attached to a statement issued by Blatter clarifying his opinion on racism in football: “Fifa clear up the blatter[sic] comments with a pic of him posing with a black man..I need the hand covering eyes symbol!!” the footballer tweeted.
Blatter was quick to reply telling Ferdinand, “The ‘black man’ as you call him has a name: Tokyo Sexwale. He has done tremendous work against racism and apartheid in Africa…”.
If Blatter had believed that his response would stop the torrent of tweets from Ferdinand, he was gravely mistaken. The footballer continued to express his outrage. Almost a day after the original initial exchange went down, Ferdinand was back online telling Blatter what he thought.
With both men being followed by millions, the conversation was seen by many, which saw “Tokyo Sexwale” — who is a South African cabinet minister — trending on Twitter in the UK.
A former Twitter foe of Ferdinand’s, CNN Talk Show Host Piers Morgan also entered the fracas tweeting, “I’ve interviewed Tokyo Sexwale, and trust me @SeppBlatter — he and Mandela didn’t fight apartheid with ‘handshakes’. Keep going @rioferdy5.”
Ferdinand and Morgan had previously been involved in their own war of words on Twitter.
Ferdinand’s anger at Blatter’s comments are most likely fuelled by allegations of racist comments made, on the pitch, against his brother Anton by England Captain John Terry.
Professional Footballers’ Association chief Gordon Taylor has added his voice in calls for Blatter’s resignation.
“I just felt this was a bridge too far, the straw that broke the camel’s back – he [Blatter] made offensive comments some time ago about female footballers and then more recently he was very homophobic in Qatar.”