FIGC Presidential candidate Carlo Tavecchio said he will “accept criticism, but not the accusation of being racist.”
The current President of the LND (amateur league) is expected to win the election for the top job in the Italian Federation on August 11.
His candidacy has been thrown into doubt by comments made about the lack of a work permit in Italy.
“We say that any old Opti Pobà can come here, before he was eating bananas, now he’s playing in the Lazio first XI,” said 71-year-old Tavecchio on Friday.
Now amid an avalanche of protests and calls for him to take a step back, Tavecchio has replied.
“I accept all criticism, but not the accusation of being racist, because my life shows the exact opposite,” said Tavecchio in a statement.
“I used improper language and for that I apologise once again. I was referring to the fact I am in favour of integration, but at the same time discourage the use of players who do not improve the quality of our Leagues.
“If I am elected President of the FIGC, the Federation will work actively against all discrimination. I am in favour of integration and ready to enact new anti-discrimination rules.”
Before this incident, Tavecchio had the support of the LND, Lega Pro, Serie B and all but two Serie A clubs.
Only Juventus and Roma were in favour of the other candidate, Demetrio Albertini.