He grasped onto his position despite the shame of Italy failing to qualify for the next World Cup, but in the end he had to take the step back that most Italians were asking him to take. Carlo Tavecchio called it quit today and resigned as President of FIGC – The Italian Football Federation, aka Federcalcio, at the end of an urgent advisory board meeting where he had to acknowledge that he no longer had the majority of it on his side.
Tavecchio’s step down concluded the most turbulent of weeks for the world of calcio, following the shocking elimination suffered by the Azzurri at the hands of Sweden. The 74-year-old president, who was in charge since three years and a half, initially tried to placate the scorned Italians’ thirst for blood by offering them the head of coach Gian Piero Ventura – who was promptly removed from his duties.
He then called for a special advisory board meeting to be held today, in order to discuss the outcome of the disastrous elimination – including representatives from the three professional leagues (Serie A, Serie B, Serie C) and the top non-professional tier (LND), plus the football players, coaches and referees unions.
Tavecchio was confident he could keep his position by playing the ace card of a strong name to replace Ventura, and believed he had the support of the key components of the board. But when rumors about number one candidate Carlo Ancelotti refusing the offer started to circulate yesterday, the front of support for Tavecchio quickly split apart.
The football players’ union, led by former Roma midfielder Damiano Tommasi – who had been extremely critical with Tavecchio since the very immediate outcome of the elimination – was joined by president Gabriele Gravina from Serie C league, with both branches determined to give the incumbent Federcalcio President a vote of no confidence.
With Serie A and B missing as both leagues are currently under administration, it was the decision of the powerful LND led by Cosimo Sibilia not to support him either, to tip the scale to the disadvantage of the incumbent FIGC president. Tavecchio was ultimately unhorsed by that same league that he led for 15 years, and that had helped him climb the football federation ladder…
At that point, furtherly pressured by the Italian Minister of Sport Luca Lotti, and by the local Olympic Committee President Giovanni Malagò, Tavecchio decided to call it quit. But he did raise his voice before doing so, in a press conference in which he angrily claimed the many successes reached during his tenure.
It is not easy indeed to judge Carlo Tavecchio’s three years and a half of calcio governance. Given that, if your national side fails to qualify for a World Cup for the first time in 60 years, you do have the moral duty to resign – there is some good in what he did, which casts some doubts over how the man will go down to the history of Italian football.
You hear him talk for a few minutes, and you honestly wonder how the hell did he actually get there. Clumsy, awkward, not exactly a natural born speaker, Carlo Tavecchio became famous for his blunders when he was still running for president – the most renown one being the racist-ish Optì Poba comment.
During his presidency campaign back in 2014, while discussing the lack of opportunities for young Italian players to find space in major clubs, Tavecchio argued: “In England, they identify the players coming in and, if they are professional, they are allowed to play. Here instead we get ‘Optì Poba,’ who previously ate bananas and then suddenly becomes a first-team player with Lazio.”
Such embarrassing remark earned him a six-month ban from holding any FIFA position – yet the difficulties for Italian players to find space and chances to grow at professional level (which is what the ineffable soon-to-be-president was clumsily trying to highlight) is a fact whose consequences the Nazionale paid just last week…
Tavecchio’s ars oratoria produced more gems like “we had always believed women to be physically handicapped versus men – when it comes strength, resistance, and athleticism – but now we came to prove that they are indeed very similar.”
But the man who kept the calcio ship going in the last quadrennium, is also the one who finally brought the video assistance referee technology to Serie A this season – earlier that in other major football leagues. And, one could argue, he is the one who managed to sneak a fourth Italian team back into the new Champions League format – something that, if results achieved by our clubs on the pitch were to be taken into account, was far from happening. Only a few weeks ago, Tavecchio claimed that Serie A should reduce their participants from 20 to 18 to increase the match quality, a position that we fully support.
Carlo Tavecchio is not the only one to blame for the Azzurri’s shipwreck, as he was put in his role and sustained by a football system based of backdoor alliances and long-held positions. Apart for the cataclysms he produced every time he opened his mouth, he did a few good things – but calcio needs new faces and new people, and he was meant to be the first one to pay for the Azzurri’s missed trip to Russia, together with the unfit Ventura.
But the last dance of this former accountant who raised to the command of the 3rd Italian industry was a gallery of horrors where all the worst Belpaese habits were showcased: From Gian Piero Ventura not having the dignity to resign after the Swedish disaster – rather preferring to be sacked and cashing his full contract fee; to Tavecchio himself, who violently and inelegantly put all the blame on the coach he had surely contributed to choose (something for which we Italians have an evocative word: scaricabarile, meaning more or less “passing the bucket”)
From the Minister of Sport Lotti and Olympic Committee President Malagò publicly remarking and indirectly pushing for a direction in a matter that would not be of their competence, being the FIGC an independent organ; to the depressing dance of supports granted and then taken off to the by-now former Federcalcio President by the advisory board components – none of whom thought to follow his example, on a side note.
With Carlo Tavecchio finally being out of the door, the impression is that we have just started to scratch the surface of a rotten system that needs to be rebuilt from scratch. We are out of the World Cup, with no guidance for the Serie A and Serie B leagues, still no coach for the Nazionale and, from today, without a football federation president either.
Come on, it just cannot get worse than this.