“We say that any old Opti Pobà can come here, before he was eating bananas, now he’s playing in the Lazio first XI.”
The more you read it, the worse it gets. Carlo Tavecchio’s analogy to describe the supposed flooding of non-EU players into Italian football could not have been more ill-conceived.
In attempting to sell himself as the next FIGC President, the current President of the LND had surely made his candidacy untenable in Friday’s statement above. Or not. As is often the case in the parallel universe that calcio seems to exist in, the 71 year-old has been afforded special dispensation by some quarters.
“We have seen politicians who have said and done worse things,” noted Genoa President Enrico Preziosi. “He just made an unfortunate comment,” added Milan’s Adriano Galliani.
Claudio Lotito, Tommaso Giulini, Maurizio Zamparini, Lega Serie A President Maurizio Beretta and even midfielder Joseph Minala also came to Tavecchio’s defence, while Lega Pro President Mario Macalli insisted it was ‘an unfortunate joke’.
The support for the veteran comes largely from those who back him to succeed Giancarlo Abete at the Italian Football Federation. Perhaps motivated by selfish interests, they paint a worrying picture of the state of Italian football and society.
Tavecchio is likely not a racist. But the fact such an analogy would enter his head and be considered suitable to publicise is quite alarming. Those who defend it are just as bad.
“I judge people for what they say and what the FIGC presidential candidate Tavecchio has said is symptomatic of the fact that he is unaware of what he is saying and that he has preconceptions that are racist,” stated agent Mino Raiola. His summation is completely correct.
Some, such as Empoli, Fiorentina and Sassuolo have reacted more appropriately and will probably withdraw their support for Tavecchio, while fellow presidential candidate Demetrio Albertini has also condemned him: “His phrase speaks for itself. If we want to grow and speak to young people on and off the field, we need to set a good example.”
Italian football is at defining point. The resignation of Giancarlo Abete has given the FIGC a chance to renew and regenerate. By overlooking Tavecchio’s gaffe, they have failed from the outset.
How can they now possibly tackle racism - a key issue - when so many are willing to excuse it? Also, what authority can Tavecchio have, when he seemingly cannot recognise the connotations of his own words?
It’s a worrying stance at a time when Italian football needs rebuilding. Stadiums, competitiveness, marketing, social problems and player development should be at the forefront of Albertini and Tavecchio’s mandates. It’s an extensive task and one that can't be achieved without a collective effort.
The Tavecchio saga has shown, however, that is not in place, while the excuses made to overlook a severe insult suggest a lack of desire for decisive change.
Perhaps, Tavecchio should have taken the decision out of other peoples’ hands by withdrawing. Instead, controversy and naivety has prevailed, leaving Italian football slipping backwards when it desperately needs to push on.