Tuesday July 29 2014
Defending the indefensible

FIGC presidential candidate Carlo Tavecchio’s racist gaffe and subsequent denials highlight a worrying side of Italian football, as Luca Persico reports.

“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.

Keep up to date with the latest news and action from Spain's Primera Division with Football Espana - from the team behind Football Italia.

See the latest Serie A predictions and betting tips with

Have your say...
If this person is elected president than I will not follow the Azzurri. What a disgrace. How did Azzurri fans feel when Balotelli was subjected to racial insults at Euro 2012. The fact that Tavecchio has not withdrawn is an indication of how out of touch he is with the evils of racism
on the 5th August, 2014 at 7:24pm
How could somebody who made such a careless comment still be in consideration for such an important post. As an American, I am appalled by the lack of uproar after such a stupid comment. The FIGC president must represent the entire country's football. Having somebody who would be so careless is baffling.
on the 30th July, 2014 at 5:13pm
I don’t particularly like Tavecchio, and I hope Albertini becomes FIGC President.
His comments were stupid. Yes he could have used an other example and not Opti Poba and bananas, and I can see how it certainly is offensive.
However, here is the quote in the Football Italia article entitled Minala: 'Tavecchio scandal ridiculous'. “I am grateful to Carlo Tavecchio, who helped me when I arrived from Africa and was abandoned by an agent,” the 17-year-old told ANSA news agency. Joseph Minala. Surely his actions reveal his attitude more than those careless words.
And to quote Mino Raiola’s words of criticism in this article is just as farcical as Tavecchio’s comments. Raiola is a self serving agent who looks after his own interests. He often encourages his players to move club, as he has done with Marek Hamsik, and is only interested in how much commission he makes. Men like him are more damaging to football than Tavecchio;s stupid words.
on the 30th July, 2014 at 11:22am
Excellent Comment by Roberto !!
on the 30th July, 2014 at 9:06am
Someone needs to tell that old man that Italian football has lost the EU market to other forward-thinking leagues and Africa might just be a goldmine for the backward calcio.
PS: bananas are very nutritious
on the 30th July, 2014 at 8:10am
He also has convictions for fraud and tax evasion so not exactly a moral person! Albertini is the only other candidate so it has to be him.
on the 30th July, 2014 at 7:27am
Age is no excuse for being a bigot. Shame on the clubs still supporting Tavecchio, and any other rascist apologist.
on the 30th July, 2014 at 7:01am
His outdated comments are a good reason why he is not the right choice. Also its an indication why youth needs to be give there opportunity not only on the pitch but in the important roles that are currently up for grabs dinosaurs with that mind set will continue to give calcio a bad name its the same problem that the players are having no trust in the youth his time is passed as indicated by his comments. I don't believe he's a true racist he just has racist habits
on the 30th July, 2014 at 1:46am
The foreigners are best attitude prevalent in Italy does not condone the racist overtones shown by Tav. If Tav's age is excuse , should it not be key focus on why he isn't fit for a modern Italy? It is correct that he is branded a racist as the connotation in using the imagery of bananas is clear.he could have illustrated his point in many ways without it being racist, as many have done today on this blog. Just be because his point is correct, does not mean his language is.
on the 29th July, 2014 at 6:43pm
@adrian g
it was an embarrassing World Cup because there is no real Italian quality to choose from. We have resorted to making non-Italians Italian in the hope of sorting the failing Azzurri and it's not working! I think he has highlighted the problem I just wish he could have worded things different so he wouldn't be branded a racist, which I think is a little harsh on a 71 year old man who is in a nation that is going through serious social change.
on the 29th July, 2014 at 5:54pm
I do not agree with how he phrased his comments but he has highlighted the issue with our league- which is there are to many foreigners in Serie A. I do not think it is correct that someone makes a comment and is suddenly branded a racist. His use of words were totally incorrect but the point he makes isn't far from the truth, there needs to be more control on foreigners in Serie A. Gli Azzurri have suffered for the most from the foreign invasion it is a problem that needs to be addressed.
on the 29th July, 2014 at 5:37pm
He should be sent to prison and convicted of a lifetime sentence without parole, better yet let's just kill him. We should have an angry mob of people with torches storm his house, drag him to a field and burn him alive on national television.

Keep in mind tat, while those who condemn him riding a new age moral horse, the world was very different for this 71-year-old when he was a young man. These types of things came normal and it is very difficult to change habits over time.
on the 29th July, 2014 at 4:41pm
If Tavecchio becomes head of the FIGC in spite of what, far from being a "slip of the tongue," was a fully-developed racist scenario of EXACTLY the sort that fuels the despicable banana throwing on pitches around Italy then I'm done with calcio. I've lived in Italy for 4 yrs & the game sadly represents & feeds some of the worst qualities of the society. Tavecchio displays the same cynicism, contempt & self-pity of Berlusconi. I have better things to do w/ my time than support such garbage
on the 29th July, 2014 at 4:29pm
@ adrian g Yeah talk about reading from different pages. I cannot believe anyone at Milan is supporting this guy. While I do have some sympathy given his age and the world in which he grew up, his comments are completely unacceptable and are not appropriate for a FIGC President. He should just gracefully step back but I fear he'll dig his heels in and this will drag on and will be no closer to a resolution come the Holland game. What a mess.
on the 29th July, 2014 at 4:26pm
I bet the likes of Empoli were offered loan players from bigger clubs for his backing hence why they have dropped him so fast. When we as Italian football fans listen to the likes of Lotito who still supports him we are doomed. He has ruined Lazio to the point I see them going down the Viola path, liquidation and amature football but unlike them Lazio do not have the fan base to come back as strong. fans of the clubs backing him need to let there clubs know they are unhappy.
on the 29th July, 2014 at 2:51pm
Tavecchio needs to do the right thing and step down. He has shown his hand and revealed that he will only take calcio further towards oblivion. Funny that Juve & Roma are the only clubs that never backed him, Italy's 2 most progressive and forward thinking clubs. That tells you everything about the state of calcio, only 2 want proper change, Proper stadiums invesment in youth the whole lot whilie the rest still fight about the past.
on the 29th July, 2014 at 2:43pm
No surprises that the dinosaurs in charge of some of the bigger Serie A teams such as Galliani, Lolito and Zamparini all back Tavecchio. They all think the same and we are in for another painful period of Italian football if they get their way I'm afraid. It makes me so annoyed that the majority of us can clearly see the downfalls of our game and these ciuco's are still there running the show like we're still living in the 80s/90s.
on the 29th July, 2014 at 2:22pm
To say someone is racist from one comment is too much. A series of comments sure, but he started with WE, not I.
I am not defending his stupidity. Albertini must have some lawyers working on a stitch up though...things are not quite so clear...I am sure I can find some dodge from Albertini if I look hard I could for anyone on this planet. Leave it for FIFA to decide...corrupt leading the somewhat backdated old man views.Football is racist/corrupt/greedy - morals dont exist in football
on the 29th July, 2014 at 2:06pm
As a mila fan i'm also slighly confused. Barbs ask for a youthful FIGC & Galliani backs Tavecchio. So we don't have unity in the boardroom but expect it on the pitch? Unfortunately for Italian football those who have been in power and enjoyed the excess but have not been accountable for the demise, do not want to relinquish power. Afraid it will get worse before it gets better. I would love Tavecchio to voluntarily withdraw & show some class, but their isn't any class in italian football anymore
on the 29th July, 2014 at 1:40pm
Not sure i agree with the comment that Tavechhio is not a racist. The fact that he thinks in that way and would use such an analogy suggests he is? The fact he does not get this and is doing the look at my past routine, is painful to watch. After such an embarassing world cup, will it get any worse for Italian football? How has this guy got to the top of the pile? I don't want to highlight his age but he is 71 - we need some new thinking and someone who can relate to the current issues.
on the 29th July, 2014 at 1:34pm
on the 29th July, 2014 at 12:56pm
2 years living in sicily is more than enough to experience first hand how backwards everything works origins lie here and it cuts me deep to witness the attitude towards everything.not just regarding football.what makes it worse,it doesnt look like its going to change anytime soon.i feel sorry for all the people with the right attitude because this place is so beautiful & corrupt that a voice will never be heard.for all italian football fans out there, better we not look right now
on the 29th July, 2014 at 12:52pm
I'm a calcio fans from overseas. While I'm not an african, I can see if racism is a serious problem in Italy even I have to recognize if it's not as worst as the past. But this candidate will really bring the calcio to even lower. Sorry to say that. I may not really know him and what he capable of, but his incapable to understand his own words is really don't buy me. In the other side, he talk about English system while what we should look at is the Germans. English system may good for the financial side, but do Italy wants to return to winning and the same time having a balance book, or not?
on the 29th July, 2014 at 12:39pm
Why do we make things so difficult, he should have have no option but to pull out of the race after his remark.

My father is the same, not a racist but will make remarks about bananas etc. when referring to black players and just laugh it off. Its ok to say it in his own house but not in public!

Italian football is in the dark ages and having a dinosaur like him in charge will not help.
on the 29th July, 2014 at 12:22pm
We cannot have this man to be FIGC President.Absolute not.Albertini who was an ex footballer would be an ideal president.We need people that are able.I am sure that Tavecchio is not a racist but he wasn't thinking when he spoke out.However, he is right that we are purchasing players who are not that great and our keeping our lads out of a game.It was wrong the way he said it and this must be punished accordingly. These positions are there to give an example and his remark was absolutely awful.
on the 29th July, 2014 at 12:17pm
If Tavecchio is elected, I fear the absolute worst for our calcio. This would be a major disgrace. The social problems are there now for everyone to see. If politicians have said worse, it is time to begin to punish people who speak with such ignorance. An example must be set. In the USA, Donald Sterling is forced to sell his basketball team because of racist remarks, in Italy they may very well elect this dinosaur of a racist as commissioner of what was once the most beautiful league.
on the 29th July, 2014 at 11:45am
What a mess. In the meantime the Dutch friendly and Euro qualifying are a little more than a month away. Maybe we let the players choose the team and coach themselves?
on the 29th July, 2014 at 11:35am

Post new comment

Your email address is kept private and will not be shown publicly.
If you have your own website, enter its address here.
Maximum 500 characters.
This question is for testing whether you are a human visitor and to prevent automated spam submissions.
Enter the characters shown in the image.
Your responses will be moderated, and sometimes edited, by Football Italia before appearing on the site. Please keep your comments clean and try to keep them relevant to the blog above. We reserve the right to reject views that we deem unsuitable for publication.