- Associated Press - Wednesday, March 4, 2015

ASUNCION, Paraguay (AP) - FIFA President Sepp Blatter urged South America’s football associations on Wednesday to hand out tougher sanctions for acts of racism by soccer fans.

Speaking to members of the South American confederation CONMEBOL, Blatter said clubs linked to offending fans need to have points deducted and even be relegated.

“We have a serious problem of racism and discrimination,” Blatter said. “We have the rules, but we lack the courage to stop this all over the world.”

Players of African descent are routinely jeered by fans across South America. This happens even in Brazil, which has a large Afro-Brazilian population.

Blatter’s comments came on the same day Peruvian club Cienciano was fined more than $12,000 and ordered to play a match without its fans after some of its supporters racially insulted Panamanian striker Luis Tejada, who is black, during a first-division game.

Blatter was in South America looking for support from the 10-member confederation in his bid for re-election in May to a fifth four-year term.

The body did not formally announce its support. But on Tuesday a person familiar with the decision told the Associated Press that CONMEBOL was supporting Blatter, who turns 79 next week.

The other candidates are FIFA Vice President Prince Ali bin al-Hussein of Jordan, Dutch federation head Michael van Praag and Portugal great Luis Figo.

FIFA’s 209 member countries vote separately, but at least one South American head has urged the group to vote as a bloc.

CONMEBOL has strong ties to Blatter. Blatter’s predecessor Joao Havelange is a Brazilian. Julio Grondona, the head of the Argentine federation who died last year, was FIFA’s senior vice president.

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