NYON: UEFA has opened an investigation into racist comments by new Italian federation president Carlo Tavecchio – three weeks before the European federation is scheduled to hosts an anti-discrimination conference in Rome writes KEIR RADNEDGE.

Tavecchio, during his campaign before his FIGC election 10 days ago, had described African footballers as “banana eaters” in a discourse about the negative effect of player imports on the Italian national team.

His comments very nearly derailed his bid to win the presidency in which he defeated Demetrio Albertini, a fellow FIGC vice-president, in the third round of voting.

In the wake of his comments both world federation FIFA and UEFA had written to the FIGC demanding a report. Outgoing president Giancarlo Abete had dismissed the requests by saying: “There’s no need for an investigation. There is a video. That’s enough.”

Italian football had a poor enough record on racist behaviour even before Tavecchio’s comments which were all the more remarkable coming from a man who is a member of UEFA’s own youth and amateur football committee.

Electoral campaign

UEFA has reportedly “personally informed the president of the FIGC, Carlo Tavecchio, of the decision to open a disciplinary inquiry into alleged racist comments made during his electoral campaign for the presidency of the Italian football federation.”

Tavecchio’s comments were criticised by Italian politicians as well as the national and international players’ unions.

The issue is all the more embarrassing for UEFA since it is committed to staging a fourth pan-European conference on anti-discrimination in Rome on September 10 and 11. The 200-plus attendees will include representatives of NGO’s, ethnic minorities, experts, activists, FA’s, leagues and clubs.

Participants will also include all UEFA member FAs, experts, NGOs and member groups from Football Against Racism in Europe.

The standard procedure would be for a welcome to be offered by the president of the host country’s national federation. This may be a problem for both UEFA and Tavecchio in the circumstances.