Italian football federation (FIGC) president Carlo Tavecchio has been barred from holding any position with world governing body FIFA for six months over an alleged racist comment he made in August.
European football’s governing body UEFA has already imposed a similar sanction on the 71-year-old and the FIFA decision announced on Wednesday was another 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.”
FIFA said that Tavecchio would be “ineligible” for any position as a FIFA official for a period of six months starting from October 7, 2014.
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.