Tuesday January 16 2018
In with the new

Damiano Tommasi is the new voice the FIGC needs after the World Cup debacle, but Giancarlo Rinaldi isn’t sure we’ll get it.

It was, without doubt, the lowest point in recent memory for the Italian national team. The last time the Azzurri failed to qualify for a World Cup was a couple of years before a legend like Franco Baresi was even born. Everyone agreed that radical reform was needed at the organisation which presided over this sporting apocalypse. But who will don their superhero cape and come to the rescue of an operation so clearly in significant distress?

That it has taken two months and counting to get round to electing a new president of the Italian football federation speaks volumes about the sluggish nature of changing anything in the country. Progress seems to move more slowly than some flabby midfielder who turned up for pre-season training carrying several kilos of pasta too many. Carlo Tavecchio’s departure - which many thought should have happened within hours of the calamitous elimination by Sweden - took days. Even when he went, he did so more reluctantly than a schoolboy returning to his studies after a summer in the sunshine.

But the departure of the leader of the Federazione Italiana Giuoco Calcio (FIGC) and his hapless appointee, Giampiero Ventura, was only part of the job which needed doing. Indeed, the vacancies left behind have the kind of to-do list attached that would make even the strongest-willed candidate go running for their Mamma. Nonetheless, a number of brave souls have thrown their green-white-and-red hats into the ring. The most compelling contender, for a variety of reasons, is Damiano Tommasi.

There is no doubt - looking at what he is likely to be up against - that he best fills the description of the new broom needed for the job. He can give 15 years to Amateur Federation chief Cosimo Sibilia and 20 to Lega Pro boss Gabriele Gravina. But it is not simply his relative youth which is on his side. The other men also boast lengthy careers in the political machinations of the Italian game and the appointment of either of them would hardly feel like a revolution. For a while it seemed as if Lazio President and Tavecchio puppet-master Claudio Lotito was in the running too, which really would’ve been adding insult to injury.

The ex-Verona, Roma and, briefly, Queens Park Rangers midfielder, on the other hand, would represent a clean break with the ancien regime.

I can remember well enough Tommasi’s playing career where he more than demonstrated the qualities of graft and determination the role as FIGC President would require. With his curly mop of hair - which often resembled bed-springs sticking out of a broken mattress - he made up for any technical deficiencies with drive and endeavour. If that isn’t a perfect calling card for the undoubtedly demanding role of saviour of the Italian national team, I don’t know what is.

But what really marked him out during his days on the field, of course, was an act of incongruous altruism in the modern game. When returning from serious injury with the Giallorossi, he agreed a deal to go on minimum wage, realising what a risk the club would be taking in keeping him on. His return to Serie A action after nearly a year-and-a-half on the sidelines was a rare moment of pure emotion in an otherwise cynical and selfish world. “I did it because I love Roma and football,” he said at the time. That kind of passion for the game must be a prerequisite of whoever takes on the FIGC President’s post.

It won’t be easy, of course, for anyone to rebuild La Nazionale, but the appointment of Tommasi would give a much-needed shot of youth, enthusiasm and credibility to the project. In Italy, the land of Bella Figura, appearance can often be as important as substance and to bring in someone outside the old guard could send a vital message. It would tell the world and everyone involved in Calcio that the profundity of the crisis which resulted in World Cup elimination had been recognised and efforts would be made to address it. Rather than a sticking plaster, this would be the complex surgery that the game requires. It’s not as if Tommasi would be a complete novice to the Federation, as he’s been in charge of the Italian Players’ Association (AIC) since 2011.

The thoughtful, politically-engaged footballer cannot be the answer on his own, of course. It takes a will to change from everyone involved to tackle the issues at the heart of Italy’s failure to qualify. Nonetheless, he looks the best-equipped and most exciting option to deliver the cure the game desperately needs. He might not be a miracle-worker, but he’ll be willing to put in the hours and think outside of the tired old box that the Azzurri were trapped in with Tavecchio and Ventura.

There is an opportunity out there for a radical new path and a fresh blueprint that can put the Italians back where their history says they belong. But those of us who have been watching the politics of the game for a while will be taking nothing for granted. Tommasi is not the favourite for the post, there are others who can count on greater support for their candidacy. So, when the votes are cast later this month, all we can do is peek through our fingers at the final result - probably more in hope than expectation.

Have your say...
Well, well, well.... three holes in the ground!

There it is for all to see - The FIGC system is so complicated and broken, that even after an election it is unable to elect a President!

Poveri Azzurri senza Mondiale, poveri calcio senza direzione, poveri giovane senza futuro!
on the 30th January, 2018 at 1:14pm

Italy are WINNERS!
And the records prove it...........

A big NO to Tommasi however..........

Football is NOT an exact science, and like in all walks of life you have to have THE VERY BEST IN PLACE, FIGC, Manager and players, or you are doomed to fail.

Talk is talk, and fact are facts, so history proves that ITALY in the end are WINNERS!
Regardless of circumstances, mistakes, youth sides, squares and round shapes.
on the 18th January, 2018 at 4:03pm
No doubt Tomassi has all the credentials to step up and lead the change that is required.

Yet, regardless of who is elected the main change is that the FIGC needs to invest in its own youth at both club and Internationl level.

Calcio needs to show more faith in its own and blood youth players alot earlier than what it currently does.

Even at Euro 16 where Italy shined the vision and player selection shown by the FIGC aand Conte was short sighted.
on the 18th January, 2018 at 1:53pm
There's much more hope with Gianluigi Buffon in this case!
The future of the FIGC?
Il Gigi with Sibilia!
Never, ever Tommasi.............
on the 18th January, 2018 at 1:10am
With Tommasi there is some hope, with the others there is no hope.
Italy needs to harness the supreme passion and footballing tradition of the people.
on the 17th January, 2018 at 5:45am
Tommasi over old dinosaurs any day.
Reform and innovation, no bribes.
This is Italy. The creators of the modern game.
Time to reinvent again.
on the 17th January, 2018 at 4:42am
Very difficult to find a candidate.
Ideally competent, honest and with great knowledge of the football scene.
A hint of vision would be needed.
In Italy there is enormous pressure from all biased sides of the coin, and candidates are always keen to take their "bustarella" to the Bank. Main downer in the "candidature" is that in Italy we are all partisan, we are all fans and that ruins everything before we even start the selection process.
Not even the Pope could probably be unbiased.
HELP !!!
on the 16th January, 2018 at 6:08pm
Of course Riomma fans like De Martino would like Tommasi in charge, then Riomma can have as many rigori paa riomma as they like every week. Their would be Riommanisti in charge of Coni and FIGC if Tommasi is elected. Maybe this would finally end Riomma's 10 year trophy drought...

The Lotito puppet master comments are a joke, Lazio were about to hire Ventura before he was given the Italy job. How exactly did Lotito influence Tavecchio?
on the 16th January, 2018 at 5:25pm
How can people honestly think that Gravina and Sibilia will change anything its beyond belief. How can anybody have backed Lotito, he is a disgrace to Italian football. The muppet master behind Tavecchio. Tommasi is everything we need, he can bring change step by step, he is the only man for the job. He is a leader and someone with morals and strong values all the qualities that unfortunately rule him out becoming the new president.
on the 16th January, 2018 at 10:41am
In response to "Save the Azzurri", which is a very fitting name considering the mess our football is in. "Save the Azzurri" has summed it up perfectly. As a massive roma fan Tommasi is and will always be my favourite player but putting that to one side in my view he would bring so much to the table. New fresh ideas and new faces not the same old faces that couldn't change a light bulb never mind our football movement, a focus on Italian youth and change for the better.
on the 16th January, 2018 at 10:37am
The issue is that the FIGC board is made up of businessmen politicians and lawyers even if tommasi was elected you would still have to contend with this group of unqualified individuals in the heart of the FIGC. It needs reform personally i think you should have at least 2 vice president positions reserved for former professional footballers along with a honorary president. as for federal council i would like to see some simplification it has too many members. do away with presidential committee
on the 16th January, 2018 at 10:08am
As the article says.. it's unlikely Tommasi will have enough support because corruption runs so deep.

Gravina and Sibilia are the 'old guard'.. they won't revolutionize nothing.. the FIGC will just keep rotting away as will Italian youth...what a sad state of affairs in Italy.
on the 16th January, 2018 at 3:24am

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