Carlo Tavecchio elected Italian football president despite racist comment12 August 2014

CarloTavecchiohasbeenelectedthenewpresidentoftheItalianFootballFederation(FIGC),replacingGiancarloAbetefollowinghisresignationafterItaly’sWorldCupelimination.

Despite the racist comment that marred his electoral campaign, Tavecchio beat Demetrio Albertini by a majority vote.

Tavecchio, formerly head of Lega Nazionale Dilettanti (LND), won with 63.63% of the votes in the third round of balloting. Albertini received 33.95% of the votes cast by the 274 delegates present.

Tavecchio had been the outstanding favourite for the job before he sparked outrage when he referred to African footballers in Italy as “banana eaters” during an address to a summer assembly of LDN, last July.

The comments came as the 71-year-old Tavecchio suggested Italy should replicate other country’s stringent requirements for non-EU players. The number of foreign players in Italy has been a topic of discussion since the national team crashed out of the World Cup in the group stage.

“In England, they identify the players coming in and, if they are professional, they are allowed to play,” Tavecchio said.

“Here instead we get Opti Pobà, who previously ate bananas and then suddenly becomes a first-team player with Lazio. That’s how it is here. In England, you need to demonstrate what you have on your CV and your pedigree.”

Questioned about the comments afterwards, Tavecchio claimed that he could not remember what he had said in his speech.

Condemnation from football
After his remarks, several leading clubs withdrew support for the amateur leagues president, who originally had the backing of all Serie A teams apart from Juventus and Roma.

The world’s football governing body FIFA asked FIGC to “take the appropriate steps to investigate and decide on this matter”.

Players, including Italy and Juventus defender Giorgio Chiellini, also joined the criticism.

“I read his (Tavecchio’s) words the day after and they left me disconcerted,” Chiellini said.

“We mustn’t let Italian football embarrass itself again. The national team is bigger than Tavecchio but we must avoid having a certain type of figure for these roles.

“We need a person with a certain decorum and personality to perform certain roles.

“I have nothing personal against Tavecchio but at the moment, the only adequate person for the role is Albertini.”

‘Old-fashioned way of thinking’ says Oshadogan
Former Italian defender and first player of Nigerian descent to play for the national under-21 team, Joseph Dayo Oshadogan said: “Tavecchio’s statement would have been offensive if he had made it in a bar, let alone in a public meeting,

“This old-fashioned way of thinking does not represent the historical and cultural state of Italy today”.

Days after the incident, CONCACAF president and FIFA anti-discrimination task force chairman, Jeffrey Webb asked football officials to “speak responsibly“.

In statement, Webb said: “The football community is appalled by the recent racist comments made by Mr. Carlo Tavecchio, a year after FIFA Member Associations unanimously approved a resolution to fight against racism and discrimination.

“As guiding voices within our communities, we strongly urge all football officials to speak and act in a responsible manner, adhering to the principle of respect that every human merits.”

Last week, over 26,000 people in the Italy signed a petition, to be sent to the heads of FIFA, UEFA and CONI (the Italian Olympic Committee), calling for Tavecchio to step down as a candidate for president of the FIGC.

‘A president for everybody’ says Tavecchio
Following his election Tavecchio told: “I will be a president for everybody, and especially for those who have legitimately expressed their dissent about me taking the job.

“I wish to thank those who have confirmed their confidence in me and who have made me feel supported even during some difficult times.”

‘Decision bigger than football’ says Vieira
Former France captain and Juventus midfielder Patrick Vieira said on twitter after the election, “I’m finding it really hard to believe that Carlo Tavecchio has been elected as president of the Italian FA after the comments that he made.

“For me, that shows how far away the Italian football authorities are from dealing with discrimination.

“This decision was made in football, but I think it is bigger than football. It should make the whole country of Italy look at the message they want to send about what they think about racism. I can’t believe he will represent the Italian football authorities. What a shame.”

‘Stronger effort needed on social inclusion’
Fare members Unione Italiana Sport Per tutti (UISP) pledged to keep lobbying for better social inclusion activities by football authorities.

Carlo Balestri, the Head of UISP International Policy said, “We are not surprised at the election of Mr Tavecchio, it captures the picture of the actual “football system” in Italy, which places greater importance on economic interests than social values. The promotion of Tavecchio arises from some sectors where TV rights are the most important issue, more so than a real push to change the system.

“We will continue to push for a real and strong effort regarding the issue of social inclusion, an engagement that seems to be marginal in the Federation and in the League.

“We will start from a first step, an agreement we recently signed with the Lega Calcio, for promoting anti-racism in schools in 15 towns in Italy, involving all the clubs of Serie A.”

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