FIFA asks Italian FA to investigate racism furor

CRITICISM::The first sign of a crack in support for Carlo Tavecchio came from Fiorentina, while Sampdoria said Serie A owners should meet and discuss the situation

Reuters, ROME

Wed, Jul 30, 2014 - Page 18

FIFA has asked the Italian Football Federation (FIGC) to investigate comments made by Carlo Tavecchio, the favorite to become its next president, in which he referred to African players as “banana eaters.”

“Media reports concerning alleged racist comments by one of the presidential candidates for the Italian FA have alerted FIFA’s Task Force against racism and discrimination, and its chairman Jeffrey Webb,” FIFA said in a statement on Monday.

“As such, FIFA has written a letter to the Italian FA asking it to take the appropriate steps to investigate and decide on this matter and report to FIFA,” the statement said.

FIGC vice president Tavecchio has received a wave of criticism for his comments, which came at the summer assembly of Italy’s amateur leagues.

He suggested that Italy should replicate England’s stringent requirements for non-EU players.

“In England, they identify the players coming in and, if they are professional, they are allowed to play,” 71-year-old Tavecchio said. “Here, instead we get ‘Opti Poba,’ who previously ate bananas and then suddenly becomes a first team player with [SS] Lazio. That’s how it is here. In England, you need to demonstrate what you have on your resume and your pedigree.”

Tavecchio has apologized twice for his remarks, but said on Monday he would not end his candidacy for the FIGC presidency.

“I’ve got the support of the leagues and I’m carrying on with my campaign for the presidency of the FIGC,” he told Italian news agency ANSA.

Tavecchio is hot favorite to beat former AC Milan and Italy midfielder Demetrio Albertini to Italian soccer’s top job in an Aug. 11 vote.

The pair are vying for the position left vacant by Giancarlo Abete, who stepped down immediately after Italy’s embarrassing early exit from the World Cup finals in Brazil.

On Sunday, the first signs of a crack in the strong support for Tavecchio from Serie A and Serie B clubs came from ACF Fiorentina, who said that he should step aside.

“Staying true to its civic and ethical values, Fiorentina, in the light of the recent comments made by Tavecchio, no longer considers his candidacy for the presidency of the FIGC sustainable,” the club said in a statement.

The new owner of UC Sampdoria, Massimo Ferrero, also said that Serie A owners should get together to discuss the situation.

“Club owners need to hold a meeting as soon as possible to assess our position [on Tavecchio’s FIGC candidacy],” Ferrero said.