Italian government calls for an end to racism after Sacchi’s ‘too many blacks’ remarks

Italy's government called yesterday for an end to racism after the former AC Milan and national team manager Arrigo Sacchi said that there are "too many blacks and foreigners" in Italian youth teams.

Graziano Delrio, State Secretary to Prime Minister Matteo Renzi who also holds responsibility for sport in the Italian council of ministers, called Sacchi's comments a "grave error" and said: "The Italy of 30 years ago is not the Italy of today.

"Today there are young players who are Italian citizens in fact and by right given that they were born and raised in Italy even if their parents had overseas roots,"

"They are part of the young generations who go to our schools, who play on our football and sports fields.

"And the theme of skin colour is certainly not where we should start trying to revitalise our youth system." said Delrio in a statement.

Sacchi's remarks were made at an awards ceremony in Tuscani, where the 68 year-old was quoted by the Italian media as having said: "I’m certainly not racist and my history as a coach demonstrates that … But look at the Viareggio [youth] tournament I would say that there are too many black players. Italy has no dignity, no pride. It should not be possible that our teams should have 15 foreign players in the squad.”

'I've been misinterpreted'

After the incident, Sacchi clarified his remarks and said his words had been misrepresented.

"I've been misinterpreted, you think I'm really racist? All I said was I saw a game featuring a team who fielded four coloured players,

"My history speaks for itself, I've always coached teams with great players from every colour and I've brought in a lot, whether to Milan or [Real] Madrid." said Sacchi.

The comments, which caused an outcry in Italy and among the football world, follow a series of discriminatory incidents involving football leaders in 2014, in countries including Italy, Russia, England, France, Finland and Australia.

Daniela Conti of the UISP nazionale, a founder member of the Fare network said, "Sacchi's words are really absurd and with no sense of adherence to the reality, Italy has really changed in the last few years and there are so many black italians... and in any case who cares about citizenship? If we are talking about sport that must mean an equal right for all to play."

In July 2014, the Italian FA (FIGC) President Carlo Tavecchio caused controversy after referring to African players as "banana eaters" during his campaign for presidency. Both FIFA and UEFA sanctioned the Tavecchio with a six month ban.

In December, FIGC suspended the president of the Italian Serie A club Sampdoria, Massimo Ferrero, for three months following a discriminatory comment aimed at the Inter Milan Indonesian president Erick Thohir.

A number of voices of the football world have condemned the comments, including FIFA president Joseph Blatter, who wrote on Twitter: "Pride and dignity is not a question of skin colour. Shocked by Arrigo Sacchi's comments. Stop it.".

Pride and dignity is not a question of skin colour. Shocked by Arrigo Sacchi's comments. Stop it.

— Joseph S Blatter (@SeppBlatter) February 18, 2015

The moment you begin a sentence with "I'm not a racist", it's usually all down hill from there... #ArrigoSacchi

— Lloyd Barker (@lloydbarker11) February 16, 2015

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