Carlo Tavecchio was elected president of the Federazione Italiana Giuoco Calcio (FIGC), despite allegations of reportedly calling African players, "banana eaters."
Tavecchio won 63.63% of the vote from a base of 278 representatives that spanned the National Professionals League A Series (Serie A), National Professionals League B Series (Serie B), Serie C Professionals League (Serie C), National Amateurs League (LND), the Referees Association, and the Associazione Italiana Calciatori (Players' Association).
As disheartening as the election results were, what made matters worse was Inter's public support for the controversial new president. Anyone who knows me or has followed me on Twitter for any period of time knows that I am an outspoken social justice advocate and I could not with good conscience ignore what I felt was an inappropriate move on behalf of the club.
The public support for the new FIGC president seemingly contradicted the inclusive founding principles of Inter, who was established in order to accept both Italian and foreign players. So with a heavy heart, I felt compelled to write this editorial.
While one may attempt to understand the political process in trying to gain favor with the new powers that be, providing public support to someone with such purportedly discriminatory views is discouraging for anyone who values equity.
Over the last year, there have been massive changes in ownership, management, and personnel. While these changes were part of the transitional process, it was my hope that the culture of inclusivity would remain unchanged.
Although racism in Italian football has been problematic throughout the league as well as with ultras, under the Moratti regime Inter was an inclusively proud club with such anti-discrimination achievements as the United Nations recognized Inter Campuses.
Below is a quote from an article via the Inter site as they presented the Inter Campus to the United Nations in 2012:
"The Italian Permanent Mission to the United Nations together with the United Nations Office on Sport for Development and Peace (UNOSDP) and in collaboration with UNICEF invited Inter Campus to present its social commitment in the world at the United Nations on 28 November 2012."
The new ownership and management group under Erick Thohir began the summer preseason tour of the United States with the #SayNoToDiscrimination initiative which seemed to follow in similarly inclusive footsteps.
Whereas the #SayNoToDiscrimination campaign continued Inter's proud legacy of advocating equity, it was nullified when public support was demonstrated towards Tavecchio.
How important will the "Fight Against Racism" actually be for the FIGC when its new leader has recently made purported racist statements?
Upon his election, Tavecchio made statements of trying to build a stronger Italian football foundation "together" through a combined effort of an agenda against violence, grassroots youth development, and reformation. The question for this new Inter regime is when working with the new FIGC leadership, will the costs outweigh the benefits?
Furthermore, while many supporters were looking forward to a multitude of changes, was this media embarrassment a result of too many non-Inter based personnel changes made too quickly without proper background knowledge of current and pertinent events in Italy? Someone clearly did not do their homework if they thought comprising a congratulatory message supporting a purported racist would be a proud moment for the club.
Conceding that this has been a low point in the new era of ownership, it is also important to recognize that rival supporters have had their laugh at the club's expense. Also important to consider is that some of the more outspoken critics maintain club ties with teams who have been associated with racist elements in the past. In no way is this a deflection of the issue at hand but instead a point of how rampant and systemic discrimination is in Italy.
How can progress towards equality be made when the leader in charge is questionable at best, regarding his own controversial comments on race and gender? This is only one of a multitude of questions the new management group needs to answer if they are to maintain any legacy of integrity and inclusivity.
Note: It seems as if Inter may have realized they had made an egregious error and while I have provided the link to the original article, both the tweet and article are conspicuously absent from their twitter timeline and the site.
Below is an Italian based Inter news feed, FCInter1908 with quoted text (in Italian) from the original congratulatory message:
FIGC, l'#Inter rompe il silenzio: "Pienoappoggio a #Tavecchio. Il suo piano..." http://t.co/P323Do2YNh pic.twitter.com/DwSGehlhoh— FcInter1908 (@FCINTER1908IT) August 11, 2014