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November 21, 2017

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Besieged Italy soccer chief resigns

Italian football federation (FIGC) president Carlo Tavecchio resigned yesterday, a week after the Azzurri failed to qualify for the World Cup.

The announcement came following calls for a complete overhaul of the nation’s most popular sport, from amateur leagues right up to Serie A and the national teams.

Sweden’s playoff win over Italy kept the four-time champion out of the World Cup for the first time in six decades.

The Azzurri finished second in their qualifying group behind Spain and then were beaten by Sweden 0-1 on aggregate.

Italy coach Gian Piero Ventura was fired two days after the loss.

For the last week, Tavecchio, 74, had resisted calls to step down but he eventually lost the support of the federation’s board of directors.

At a summit called to address the failed qualification, Tavecchio told the board in Rome that political maneuvers “have prevented us from discussing the reasons for this result”, according to the ANSA news agency.

“I’ve taken note that some of you have changed your stances,” Tavecchio added before announcing his resignation.

Often referring to himself in the third person, he said he had been the victim of persecution by the media. “The only thing missing was Tavecchio on the cross,” he said.

Former federation chief Giancarlo Abete said as he left the board meeting that a new election would be held within 90 days.

Abete added that due process needs to be respected so a candidate “supported by the majority can be freely elected as the new president as soon as possible.

“We don’t want a leader who is left all alone,” Abete said.

Players association president Damiano Tommasi said he “hopes the next president is someone who can talk football”.

Tommasi, who played on Italy’s squad at the 2002 World Cup and won the Serie A title with AS Roma in 2001, added that “it’s not the right time” to say if he will run for the presidency. “Nobody has asked me to yet,” Tommasi said.

A Gazzetta dello Sport poll published on Monday showed that 73 percent of adults in Italy wanted Tavecchio to step down.

There was a precedent since former president Abete and former coach Cesare Prandelli both resigned immediately after Italy was eliminated in the first round of the 2014 World Cup.

Tavecchio was elected to succeed Abete in 2014 despite a racist comment during his election campaign.

UEFA banned Tavecchio for six months after he made a reference to bananas when discussing the presence of foreign players in Italy.

Tavecchio was re-elected for another 4-year term in March.

Italian football now finds itself without a federation president, national team coach, and presidents of both Lega Serie A and Lega Serie B.


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