Guardian, February 17, 2015
The former Italy manager Arrigo Sacchi has denied being racist after he was quoted as saying there are “too many black players” at youth level in Italy–evidence that the nation is now “without dignity or pride”.
Sacchi, speaking at an awards ceremony, was quoted by Italian media as having said: “I’m certainly not racist and my history as a coach demonstrates that … But look at the Viareggio [youth] tournament I would say that there are too many black players. Italy has no dignity, no pride. It should not be possible that our teams should have 15 foreign players in the squad.”
The 68-year-old, whose club coaching career included spells at Parma, Milan, Atlético Madrid and Real Madrid, later tried to clarify his stance after the comments were reported, telling Gazzetta dello Sport: “I have been misrepresented, how could I be racist?
“I just said I saw a game featuring a team who fielded four coloured boys. My history speaks for itself, I always coached teams with different colours and I bought many, both at Milan and at Madrid.
“I just wanted to point out that we are losing our national pride and identity.”
Sacchi was Italy coach between 1991 and 1996, during which time he led the national team to the World Cup final in 1994. He later moved into punditry before returning to football to oversee changes to the youth squad.
His comments come months after Carlo Tavecchio, Italy’s FA president, was banned for six months by Uefa for making racist remarks. Tavecchio, 71, caused controversy in when he made a comment about a fictitious African player he named Opti Poba “eating bananas” during the campaign for the presidency. He later apologised for his comments.