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Football: UEFA in racism probe of Italy federation president

European football's governing body UEFA has opened an investigation into a comment made by new Italian Football Federation (FIGC) president Carlo Tavecchio that has been widely condemned as racist.

PARIS: European football's governing body UEFA has opened an investigation into a comment made by new Italian Football Federation (FIGC) president Carlo Tavecchio that has been widely condemned as racist.

At a public meeting last month, Tavecchio, 71, said: "Here we get 'Opti Poba' who previously ate bananas and then suddenly becomes a first-team player at Lazio."

The comments, which appeared to be aimed at France and Juventus midfielder Paul Pogba, sparked controversy in Italy with many commentators condemning what they saw as an overtly racist outburst.

Tavecchio has acknowledged he should not have made the remark but insists he was only guilty of a clumsy turn of phrase.

"I'm calm and respectful of UEFA's decision," he said in a statement posted on the FIGC's website shortly after the announcement of the probe on Wednesday.

"They are doing their duty and we had expected this but I am sure that I will be able to explain both my error and my true intentions at UEFA headquarters."

Earlier this week, Tavecchio insisted he had a clear conscience over the episode and dismissed suggestions he was racist.

"I adopted three African children, I also run a tomato-growing cooperative there and built two hospitals," he said, adding: "I didn't mean to hurt anybody."

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