FIFA chief Blatter says sorry for gay sex comment

AP and afp, ABU DHABI

Sat, Dec 18, 2010 - Page 19

FIFA’s president Sepp Blatter apologized yesterday for the fallout from his remarks that gay fans should abstain from sex during the 2022 World Cup in Qatar. Blatter told journalists in Abu Dhabi that he was sorry if anyone was offended by his comments earlier this week in South Africa, where he said gay visitors should “refrain from any sexual activities” while in Qatar because of the Gulf nation’s strict laws against homosexuality.

“It was not my intention and never will be my intention to go into any discrimination,” Blatter said in Abu Dhabi. “This is exactly what we are against. If somebody feels that they have been hurt, then I regret [it] and present apologies.”

Blatter’s comment prompted a leading international gay rights group to demand an official apology from FIFA. Juris Lavrikovs, communications director for the European branch of the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association, said the comments were “very unfortunate and have left people deeply offended.”

Blatter also said he would support moves to stage the 2022 World Cup during the winter months, but warned that such an action would be difficult to implement.

Fears that the searing heat that prevails in the emirate in the traditional World Cup months of June and July would make it dangerous for players and fans alike, quickly followed FIFA’s decision to award the 2022 tournament to Qatar,

“It is important to play when the climate is appropriate and I’m thinking about the footballers, not only the fans but the actors,” he said. “Personally I think it would be better that it is played in the winter ... but it’s not easy to realize.”

Blatter, however, said he had no regrets over the vote earlier this month which saw Qatar defeat rival bids from US, Australia, Japan and South Korea.

“The basic principle signed is about 64 matches in Qatar in the months of June and July, that’s what we have at the moment,” he said. “If Qatar wants a change, the demand must come from Qatar and send later to FIFA. All the countries [in the zone] are happy and proud for the Middle East and Gulf.”

The change would have major implications for domestic competitions in Europe where league programs would be in full swing.