Italian FA chief barred from UEFA over ‘banana’ comment
UEFA said its disciplinary and ethics panel had also ordered the 71-year-old to organize racism awareness event in Italy
Italian federation (FIGC) president Carlo Tavecchio has been barred from the next UEFA Congress and from holding any position with European soccer’s governing body for six months over an alleged racist comment he made in August.
UEFA said its disciplinary and ethics panel had also ordered the 71-year-old to organize racism awareness event in Italy.
The decision was an embarrassment for the FIGC whose own investigation had cleared Tavecchio of any wrongdoing.
Tavecchio caused an outcry when he made a comment about a fictitious African player he named Opti Poba “eating bananas” during the campaign for the FIGC presidency.
He was addressing the vexed subject of the lack of opportunities for young Italian players at professional clubs.
“In England, they identify the players coming in and, if they are professional, they are allowed to play,” the 71-year-old said.
“Here instead we get ‘Opti Poba’, who previously ate bananas and then suddenly becomes a first-team player with Lazio.”
Tavecchio made the remarks in a speech to a meeting of the assembly of Italy’s amateur leagues (LND) of which he was president at the time.
Despite the controversy, he swept to victory in the FICG election against former AC Milan midfielder Demetrio Albertini with the backing of the lower tier clubs and amateur leagues, a result which raised more questions about Italian attitudes to racism in football.
“Mr. Tavecchio will be ineligible for any position as a UEFA Official for a period of six months starting from the communication of this decision,” UEFA said.
“[He] will not participate in the next UEFA Congress scheduled for 24 March 2015; [he] will organise a special event in Italy aimed at increasing awareness and compliance with the principles of UEFA’s Resolution entitled European Football united against racism."