Carlo Tavecchio, under fire after referring to African players as “banana eaters,” received a boost in his bid to win the Italian Football Federation (FIGC) presidency on Monday when the country’s lower league clubs agreed to back him.
The Lega Pro, the governing body for 60 Prima Divisione and Seconda Divisione clubs — third and fourth-division teams — said nearly all of its members would back the 71-year-old Tavecchio, despite a racist outburst.
“The position of all the presidents regarded the candidate for the presidency of the FIGC has not changed and foresees the backing of Carlo Tavecchio,” Lega Pro president Mario Macalli, 77, told local media at the body’s general assembly in Florence, Italy.
“There was nothing that could make our clubs change their support. Maybe a few clubs think differently, I can’t rule that out, but during the assembly, none have come forward to say that the think differently,” Macalli said.
FIGC vice president Tavecchio, who also heads the Lega Nazionale Dilettanti — the governing body for Italy’s amateur leagues — faces former AC Milan and Italy midfielder Demetrio Albertini in the election in Rome on Tuesday next week that is to choose replacement for Giancarlo Abete, who quit following the end FIFA World Cup last month.
Lega Pro has 60 of the 278 votes, although under the electoral rules, those ballots are only worth 17 percent of the total.
Italy and Juventus defender Giorgio Chiellini on Sunday joined the wave of criticism Tavecchio has received for his remark, which came at the summer assembly of Italy’s amateur leagues, which hold 34 percent of the vote.
“In England, they identify the players coming in and, if they are professional, they are allowed to play,” Tavecchio said at the assembly. “Here instead we get ‘Opti Poba,’ who previously ate bananas and then suddenly becomes a first-team player with [SS] Lazio.”
Opti Poba is a fictional player.
“I read his [Tavecchio’s] words the day after and they left me disconcerted,” Chiellini told a Juventus news conference. “I asked ... how Italian football could be heading towards this election and if there was any solution. I have nothing personal against Tavecchio, but at the moment, the only adequate person for the role is Albertini.”
In a radio interview later on Sunday, Tavecchio said he suffered more than Lee Harvey Oswald, who assassinated former US president John F. Kennedy.
“John Kennedy’s assassin didn’t have to suffer what I have suffered over the last few days,” Tavecchio told RAI radio. “And to think that these last few days mark 30 years since I started my work in Africa, where I have helped to build and open a hospital.”
Tavecchio, who initially had the support of all Serie A clubs except Juventus and AS Roma, has seen his backing drop since the incident, although many clubs, including Milan, still back him.