DOHA: FIFA president Sepp Blatter strongly criticised England's players on Friday for a lack of discipline and respect for the sport and their national association in threatening to boycott their Euro 2004 qualifier against Turkey.
Blatter told a news conference that such actions could only be condemned.
The England squad, aghast that Manchester United Rio Ferdinand had been publicly named and then dropped by England for failing to take a routine drugs test, held meetings and after threatening to boycott the Turkey game, finally backed down and agreed to travel to Istanbul and play.
The game ended in a 0-0 draw and England qualified for the Euro 2004 finals automatically.
But Blatter said: “If we don't do something to stop this, then I don't know where we are going to go with our game, football. We must, all of us, be aware that we have an obligation to care for and respect the game.
“Sometimes we all have individual feelings and causes, but we cannot do as we please because we must respect the institution. I think we must say that we have to call these players to order in this respect.
“What they did, by threatening a boycott of that match, cannot be accepted by anyone and I congratulate the FA in London for their strong position in this,” he said.
“We must add our congratulations, too, to them for qualifying automatically with a good result in such difficult circumstances.
“It was wrong that the players ever thought about any kind of a boycott. It should not have been part of their thinking at all. It is not part of football that any player should think like this.”
He added that he expected the English Football Association to hand out “an appropriate and severe punishment” to Rio Ferdinand, the English player whose failure to attend an anti-doping test, provoked the England squad's action.
“I am sure the FA will take the right measures against the player who missed the drugs test, because this is a serious issue in its own right, but I have not heard anything on this yet. I am making no further comment because I don't know the case of this player exactly.”
The FA are now investigating the case and a decision is expected in due course. – Reuters