FIFA have asked the Italian football federation to open an investigation into alleged racist comments by a leading candidate for the presidency of the national body.

"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 and its chairman Jeffrey Webb,'' world football's governing body said in a statement.

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.

FIFA statement

"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."

Carlo Tavecchio, who is president of the amateur leagues in Italy, sparked outrage when he discussed the presence of foreign players in Italy.

Using a hypothetical name, he said, "In England they select players based on professionalism, whereas we say that 'Opti Poba' is here, he was eating bananas before and now he's starting for Lazio and that's OK.''

A leading candidate

The 71-year-old Tavecchio is one of the leading candidates to replace Giancarlo Abete, who resigned along with national team coach Cesare Prandelli immediately after Italy's first-round elimination from the World Cup last month.

The only other candidate in the August 11 election is former AC Milan player and current federation vice president Demetrio Albertini.

The vote is considered pivotal for the future of Italian football, which is rife with problems such as falling attendance, crumbling stadiums, fan violence and racism - and early eliminations for the national team at the last two World Cups.

The new president's first job will be to name a replacement for Prandelli.

Source: AP