Che schifo! Tavecchio’s appointment – a shame for the fight against racism

Che schifo! Tavecchio’s appointment – a shame for the fight against racism

Carlo Tavecchio is the new man in charge of the Italian football federation. In a country where black players have continuously struggled with racism, should a man who referred to African players as “banana eaters” really be in charge? By ANTOINETTE MULLER.

When it comes to fighting racism in football, FIFA likes to believe that the problem is isolated. The fans who throw bananas and chant racist slogans? They’re few and far in between. When coaches like Patrick Viera take their players off for a match because of alleged racist abuse, it’s an incident that rarely happens. In fact, racism is so isolated in the global game that last week the Italian FA appointed Carlo Tavecchio as their new president.

Tavecchio referred to “banana eaters” during a prepared speech to Italy’s amateur leagues when he complained about a lack of opportunities for home-grown players at professional clubs. When quizzed afterwards on his statement, he said that he could not remember what he said. Now, whether you think important people like Tavecchio writes his own speeches or not almost doesn’t matter. What does matter is that he said those words and showed absolutely no comprehension for what he said – despite his later apology.

Now he is the man in charge of one of the associations with a high concentration of racism. The same country where Kevin Prince Boateng staged a protest by walking off the field for racist abuse and the same country where Mario Balotelli has repeatedly raised concerns over how he was treated as a black man.

But don’t let that get in the way of FIFA believing there isn’t a big problem. They’re probably printing flowery banners to show just how against the fight against racism they are right as you read this. Don’t worry, they’re really fighting this problem with slogans.

A number of people have spoken out against the appointment. World players union FIFPro has suggested Tavecchio attends a UEFA-organised anti-discrimination conference in Rome in September and make a public apology. Viera has said it shows how far away the Italian football authorities are from dealing with discrimination and the “63.63% of those that voted are admitting that they aren’t fighting against racism”. FIFA themselves demanded a probe into the comments Tavecchio, but said they will leave it up to the Italian FA to decide what to do. The Italian FA decided that appointing Tavecchio as their president was the right thing to do and FIFA have not made much noise about his appointment, despite the fact that they could step in.

According their very own Disciplinary Code they suggest the following when it comes to players sinning:

“Anyone who offends the dignity of a person or group of persons through contemptuous, discriminatory words or actions concerning race, colour, language, religion or origin shall be suspended for at least five matches.”

There is also a fine and a stadium ban involved for those who fail to live up to the Disciplinary Code. Why, then, has FIFA not acted or at least condemned the appointment of a man who has clearly made racist statements? There will be those who will try to defend Tavecchio and excuse his words as simply being a poorly chosen turn of phrase, but in this day and age, there cannot be such excuses.

In a country rife with struggles against racism, there should be condemnation from the world governing body, especially since they are so quick to plug their propaganda in the fight against racism.

Sunday Oliseh, the former Nigerian international who played in Italy, has strongly condemned the appointment.

“To have someone elected who would make such a comment sends a message: ‘We don’t care’,” Oliseh told BBC Sport.

“That he won the majority of the votes makes you question if this opinion is only his or whether it is also the opinion of the general public in Italy,” added Oliseh. “It is a big problem.

“The African players in Italy will still have to do their work and give their best. Some players may want to leave but might not get the opportunity to do so.

“For years black players have had to fight against racism just to ply their trade and it is a situation that is out of hand.”

“When the Italian Federation elects a man who makes these racist comments you have to think that it is unlikely black people would be employed by that organisation and that is a shameful thing.

“But whatever happens, whatever comments are made, we will stand as one and black people in football will not cease to exist.”

If FIFA really cared about fighting racism, they would have stepped in by now and they would have acted far more quickly. Racism is real. Racism is a problem and while it’s unlikely that it will ever be eradicated completely, much more can be done to at least take a stern stand against it. Right now, FIFA are failing at their most basic task. DM

Photo: New Italian Football Federation (FIGC) President Carlo Tavecchio reacts after his election in Rome, Italy, 11 August 2014. EPA/ANGELO CARCONI


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