David Beckham did his best not to become embroiled in the row over FIFA President Sepp Blatter’s controversial comments about racism. The Swiss President had said that there was no racism in soccer, and that any such on field disputes should be sorted by ‘a handshake.’
The news that soccer was a racism free zone must have come as good news to Liverpool’s Uruguayan Luis Suarez who was charged by the English Football Association the same day over comments made to Manchester United’s Patrice Evra, and Neil Lennon who urged Celtic fans to cease their sectarian chanting after a UEFA Charge for his Glasgow club.
UEFA have also just fined Bulgaria for racist chanting.
Amid the predictable ensuing brouhaha over his remarks, Blatter tried to cycle back, admitting his comments had caused a “serious incident” and that he had used “unfortunate words” which he “deeply regretted.”
“I think the comments were appalling. A lot of people have said that. I don’t think the comments were very very good for this game. I’ve no power over who goes and who stays within FIFA. I don’t wish to have that. There obviously is and has been racism throughout soccer and life over the last few years. But I do think, especially being around the England team, being around the FA; the FA do a lot of work with kicking racism out of the game and they’ve made huge strides in the last ten, fifteen years but it is still there and it can’t be just swept under the carpet.
It can’t just be sorted out with just a handshake. That’s not the way of the world and not how racism should be treated. It’s out there and we need to work hard to keep it out of the game, and out of life in general. The comments …. everyone’s had their own opinion on it, and I’m not going to say any more on it. It’s something we want to keep out, not just of sport but of life in general.”
Turning back to the other matter occupying many of the journalists at the LA Galaxy press conference, Beckham reiterated the same answer to the same question about his future, saying he would decide after the final.
He did offer a snippet of his thoughts both about the game and living in California.
“The other day I was driving my kids to breakfast at 8.30 in the morning. I stopped at a stop sign looked to my right and I saw Al Pacino walking with his small kid which was surreal. We love living here. I’m 36 years old and still love the game like I was 21.”
He is looking forward only to the next game, the MLS Cup Final, and the one after that which may be in the Olympic Games.
“I was always proud to be part of the winning bid team that brought the Olympics to England. I do want to be part of the GB team. I’m very patriotic about England.”
Galaxy manager Bruce Arena referred back to the MLS Cup Final of 2009 in Seattle and admitted he could have done things better:
“I think the experience two years ago was good for the team. I think in preparation I probably could have done a better job have the team ready for that game and making adjustments during the game. Hopefully that’s helpful on Sunday.”
Given his recent experience of a final, and all the experiences that his opposite number has to bring, will it be a matter of who blinks first?