The Italian professional footballers' association AIC is calling on the country's national football federation FIGC to sanction its newly elected President Carlo Tavecchio for his recent infamous remarks about foreign football players.
"It will be impossible to start any anti-racism campaign in Italy in the future if there are no sanctions for this President", said Damiano Tommasi, President of the Italian professional footballers' association AIC.
Last Monday, Carlo Tavecchio was elected President by the FIGC congress. The 71-year old beat former national team player Demetrio Albertini. That, despite his remarks describing foreign players as banana eaters who were taking the jobs of Italian footballers, and some insensitive remarks about female football players.
Tavecchio's words shocked almost everyone in Italian football. His remarks are even more offensive given that all football stakeholders are convinced that there is no place for racism in football. FIFPro and its players unions are educating footballers, spectators and schoolchildren, while FIFA and most of its confederations and federations uphold zero tolerance policies.
Tommasi said he and the AIC immediately received complaints from their players. "Giorgio Chiellini was the first player to react. Ten minutes after he had read the news, he called me and told me that we had to do something, because he knows what the significance will be if the Italian national team has to travel around the world with this man as their President". Chiellini – a defender of Juventus and the Italian national team – was one of many players who expressed their anger.
Next to those remarks, the players union was also concerned about Tavecchio's background, being a representative of the Italian football establishment, a person more concerned with the power of the leagues and the clubs than the rights of the players. "He had already created a firm alliance of all the Italian leagues, professional and amateur. They only see us as workers. But at the board of the FIGC we must be treated as equals and not as employees".
The AIC had taken up a clear stance joined by the Italian coaches association (AIAC) and referees association (AIA). The media and general public also rooted against Tavecchio. "We all supported Albertini. He would be a choice for the future, he could change the current mentality. Tavecchio would not be just one, but ten steps back in time".
Still, Tavecchio won the election. The players (20 percent), the coaches (10 %) and the referees (2 %) only had 32 % of the total votes in the FIGC general assembly. Almost nobody else voted against Tavecchio, much to Tommasi's disappointment. "Before the vote, everybody thought it would be impossible for him to be elected after the comments he had made..."
"For the players, it is very difficult to feel represented by Carlo Tavecchio".
The AIC has four representatives on the new FIGC board: Umberto Calcagno, Simone Perrotta, Morgan De Sanctis and Tommasi. Next Monday, August 18th, the board will meet for the first time to discuss among other things the appointment of a new national team manager after Cesare Prandelli left his position. At that same meeting, Tommasi will also raise the question what to do with Tavecchio's remarks.
"We have to reflect on his remarks about foreign players. We need more than the simple rectification he has made. They are not a joke. We have to think what is the correct sanction".
"In Italy, we still have people in the stadiums who think that there are no black Italians. I think this year we should not be surprised when we see banners inside the stadium displaying 'Tavecchio one of us'."
"If we do not sanction Tavecchio's remarks, we cannot sanction supporters or players making racist remarks either. If you want to launch any campaign against racism in the future, you have to attack Tavecchio's remarks with force".
After being elected President, Tavecchio promised to establish a committee to fight racism. Tommasi: "He wants some players in this committee. I said that the first job of this committee is to discuss a sanction for the President, for his remarks about foreign players. I don't know if he still wants us on that committee..."
Tommasi will also discuss the current situation with the players of the Italian national team, which will play a friendly against The Netherlands on September 4th. "That will be a good moment to talk with them about this".
"We are protecting all the players and foreign players in Italy. And we also have a lot of Italian players outside Italy. What do you think about Italy's image? This is a disaster for everyone in Italy".
- Published: 14 August 2014