Blatter apologizes to gay activists for remark
FIFA president Sepp Blatter issued a public apology Friday after the fallout from his remarks that gay soccer fans should abstain from sex during the 2022 World Cup at 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" 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, which is hosting the Club World Cup.
"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" and said "we are talking about a very basic human right that is being violated."
Lavrikovs said that Qatar and more than 70 other countries in the world still criminalize individuals for homosexual relationships, and some countries even punish them by death.
Qatar beat the United States, Australia, Japan and South Korea in the FIFA vote on Dec. 2 to host the 2022 World Cup.
Since winning the right to host the tournament, concerns have been raised about Qatar's social restrictions, limiting the drinking of alcohol to hotels, frowning on public affection and considering homosexuality taboo.
Herman Ouseley, chairman of Kick It Out, a British campaign group for equality and inclusion in football, said earlier this week that he expected better from someone in Blatter's position, and that his joking about the matter showed a lack of leadership.