Italian Football Federation president Carlo Tavecchio has denied he is homophobic or anti-semitic after recordings emerged of him apparently making discriminatory comments.
Extracts from a conversation were reported in the Italian press over the weekend in which Tavecchio is claimed to have made disparaging remarks.
“I don’t have anything against Jews, but it’s best to keep them under control,” he is claimed to say in the recording, before adding: “Is it true that a former president of the FIGC was gay? I have nothing against homosexuals but keep them away from me, I am perfectly normal.”
Tavecchio insisted the recordings were made without his knowledge by Massimiliano Giacomini of website Soccerlife and has alleged a campaign of “retaliation” against him.
“I should point out that it was not an interview but a meeting requested by Giacomini, who I’ve known for years and met several times, and that the recording was made without my knowledge, a deplorable phenomenon which has unfortunately become widespread,” he said in a statement released by the FIGC.
“If you examine the events without bias, it is an obvious retaliation against me by the person to whom I denied the contributions for his editorial work, and who after my refusal has gone against the FIGC and a number of my people in a disparaging manner, of which I have already informed my lawyers.
“Having heard the audio, it’s clear that Giacomini is quoting [Rete] ECO [Jews against the occupation of Palestine] and my words are clear, I reaffirmed my long personal and professional relationship of esteem.
“I’m glad that has been acknowledged by, among others, the Israeli ambassador in Italy, who I thank.
“With regard to the allegations of homophobia, that is not me. Here too, the audio is very clear, I say ‘I have nothing against homosexuals’, and I’ve never discriminated against anyone for those reasons.
“I respect everyone’s choices, and I don’t think anyone treated like a criminal for that.”
Giovanni Malago, head of the Italian Olympic Committee, stated on Monday that Tavecchio’s comments were “unacceptable” and “should be condemned”.
The 72-year-old, who replaced Giancarlo Abete at the head of Italian football last year, was issued with a six-month ban from football after comments he made last November, when he described young foreign footballers in Italian academies as “banana-eaters”.