GENEVA – FIFA on Monday called for an investigation into alleged racist comments made by the front runner in the race for the top job in Italian football. The racism row involves Italian FA vice-president Carlo Tavecchio, who last Friday provoked controversy when discussing Italy’s overseas players. “Media reports concerning alleged racist comments by one of the presidential candidates for the Italian FA have alerted FIFA’s Task Force against racism and discrimination,” world football’s governing body announced. “FIFA has written a letter to the Italian FA asking it to take the appropriate steps to investigate and decide on this matter and report to FIFA.” Tevecchio caused controversy in comments he made at his election launch last Friday. “…Opti Poba, who previously ate bananas and then suddenly becomes a first-team player at Lazio,” the 71-year-old said, in reference to Paul Pogba, the France international who plays for Juventus. Tavecchio apologised afterwards but stressed he was not a racist. “I accept every criticism but not the accusation of racism because my whole life bears witness to the contrary.”
The Italian FA were reminded that “the fight against racism is a top priority for FIFA” and that they were obliged to do everything possible to stamp out racism. “In its correspondence, FIFA also stressed that officials of the football community are expected to act as role models in the fight against racism,” the statement on FIFA’s official website concluded. The overseas contingent in Serie A has become topical since Italy crashed out of the World Cup in the first round. This is by no means the first time Italian football has become embroiled in racism. In May, Serie A side Atalanta were fined by FIFA after bananas were thrown at AC Milan defender Kevin Constant. After the World Cup Mario Balotelli hit out at what he termed his “racist” detractors after being blamed for the Azzurri’s premature exit.