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Blatter condemns 'racist' Real Betis supporters

FIFA President Sepp Blatter looks on during a news conference in Doha November 9, 2013. REUTERS/Fadi Al-Assaad
FIFA President Sepp Blatter looks on during a news conference in Doha November 9, 2013. REUTERS/Fadi Al-Assaad

MADRID (Reuters) - FIFA president Sepp Blatter has condemned the Real Betis fans who apparently directed racist chants at their own player Paulao after he was sent off in Sunday's 4-0 derby defeat at Sevilla.

A group of Betis fans were briefly shown on Spanish television making what appeared to be monkey chants at Paulao after he was dismissed shortly before halftime at the Sanchez Pizjuan. The incident was not mentioned in the referee's match report.

"Sickened to learn of ‘fans' racially abusing a Real Betis player," Blatter wrote on his Twitter feed on Tuesday.

"I condemn their actions, which were seen on TV/online by millions," the Swiss added.

"FIFA's members approved a resolution at congress in May to tackle discrimination. It's time for tougher sanctions."

Betis published a brief statement on their Twitter feed after the match in which they said the club condemned any "violent or racist act", whether directed at an opponent or one of their own players.

Reacting to Blatter's comments on Tuesday, they added, again on Twitter: "The behavior of a few who do not represent the club's fans is also disgusting to Real Betis.

"To stamp out this kind of behavior the role of organizations like FIFA is also important."

The abuse of Paulao is the latest racist incident in Spain, where monkey chants are regularly directed at black players at stadiums across the country.

Alicante-based Elche denounced their own fans after Granada's French defender Allan Nyom was subjected to such abuse from one section of the home crowd last month.

Nyom reacted by angrily kicking the ball towards them and was booked. The referee, who mentioned the abuse in his report, then ordered an announcement to be made telling the Elche fans to desist.

ZERO TOLERANCE

Brazil-born Paulao said Sunday's chanting was "a disgraceful act" and "very ugly".

"My family, in Brazil as well as here in Spain, are sad and worried," he was quoted as saying in Spanish media.

"When I left the pitch I was only upset about the sending off and I did not notice, although my friends told me about it later.

"It's good that this gets a lot of publicity so that action can be taken. We are all the same. Skin color changes nothing."

FIFA agreed at May's congress that evidence of racism should be punished with a warning, a fine and/or the playing of a match behind closed doors for "a first or a minor offence".

"For reoffenders or for serious incidents, sanctions such as point deductions, expulsion from a competition or relegation should be applied," the world governing body said.

As part of a so-called "zero-tolerance" strategy, any person found guilty of a racist offence would be suspended for at least five matches and given a stadium ban.

European governing body UEFA, who have been running a high-profile anti-racism campaign, ordered CSKA Moscow to close part of their stadium for Wednesday's Champions League game against Bayern Munich following the abuse hurled at Manchester City's Yaya Toure by the Russian club's fans last month.

(Reporting by Iain Rogers, editing by Justin Palmer and Clare Fallon)

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