ItalianFootballAssociation(FIGC)president CarloTavecchioisfacingnewcriticismoverthedisparagingcommentsaboutJewsandgaysmadeinJunetothe onlineoutletSoccerLife.
The remarks were allegedly made while discussing the sale of an amateur league’s headquarters to the real estate mogul Cesare Anticoli, the Italian daily Corriere della Sera reported on Sunday.
On an audio recording of the conversation, the FIGC president said: “I don’t have anything against Jews, but it’s best to keep them under control,” and later “Is it true that a former president of the FIGC was gay? I have nothing against homosexuals but keep them away from me, I am perfectly normal.”
Tavecchio said the interview was taped without his knowledge and questioned whether the recording had been manipulated. He told Corriere he is being targeted for blackmail and that he does not recall uttering the remarks.
Tavecchio added in a statement published on the FIGC website: “My words are clear and I have reiterated my long-term rapport of personal and professional respect for Jews.
“I’m happy that, among others, the Israeli ambassador in Italy has confirmed this and I thank him.
“Regarding the accusations of homophobia, the audio is very clear from the moment I say that ‘I have nothing against homosexuals’ and that I have never discriminated against anyone for that reason.
“I respect everyone’s choices.”
Activists and sport bodies call for action
Jewish and gay rights groups in Italy have since called for Tavecchio’s demission.
Condemning the remarks Flavio Romani, president of the LGBT movement Aricgay, said Tavecchio should be kept “far away from a position of responsibility in sport”.
“These comments damage football and harm the athletes and gay fans, who once again are ridiculed.” added Aricgay.
The head of Rome’s Jewish community called on Italian sport “to take a step back”.
Giovanni Malago, president of the Italian Olympic Committee (CONI), asked the FIGC to investigate the case, including the allegations made by Tavecchio.
“The words which have emerged through the audio recording are unacceptable and must be condemned,
“I believe that each person must answer to their conscience and adopt the most appropriate behaviour,” said Malago.
Renzo Ulivieri, the president of the Italian coaches’ association, called Tavecchio’s alleged remarks out of place, whether blackmail was involved.
“Certain words shouldn’t be pronounced by anyone and certainly not by the president of the Italian football federation,” Ulivieri said.
In 2014, Tavecchio was suspended for six months by UEFA and FIFA after making a racist comment during his election campaign, for a reference to bananas when discussing the presence of foreign players in Italy.