Arrigo Sacchi’s comments on ‘coloured’ players in Italian football criticised

Former Italy coach quoted as saying “there are too many coloured players in our youth teams’

Former Italy and AC Milan coach Arrigo Sacchi walked himself into a major row on Monday night when saying that "there are too many coloured players in our youth teams".

Sacchi, who is often credited with having changed the face of Italian football thanks to the brilliant AC Milan side he coached in the late ’80s and early ’90s, was speaking at a prize-giving ceremony in Montecatini Terme.

Referring to Italy's annual youth team tournament in Viareggio, won last Sunday by Inter Milan, Sacchi, a former national youth team director, complained: "I'm certainly not a racist and you can see that from my record as a coach, starting with guys like Frank Rijkaard (at AC Milan), but I have to say that watching the Viareggio tournament, there are too many coloured players in our youth teams.

“Business considerations dominate everything nowadays . . . Italian football has no dignity or pride, it is simply not possible that some teams have 15 foreigners (in their squads) . . .”


Speaking later to sports daily Gazzetta Dello Sport, Sacchi attempted to explain his comments, saying: "All I wanted to say was that I had seen a (youth team) game in which one team fielded four coloured boys. My record speaks for itself. I've always coached teams with different coloured champions and I also encouraged teams like AC Milan and Real Madrid to buy plenty of them (black players)."

Inevitably, Sacchi's comments have provoked immediate criticism. Football agent, Mino Raiola, who handles Liverpool's Italian international Mario Balotelli, commented: "There are too many ignorant people in positions of power in Italian football, that is why we are in the shit. I was ashamed to be Italian when I heard Sacchi's comments."

BBC football pundit and former England international Gary Lineker was succint in his criticism, via Twitter.

“There are too many racists in Italian football”, he tweeted.

Sacchi's unfortunate remarks come just months after the Italian Football Federation elected itself a new president, notwithstanding his apparently racist views. During his election campaign, 71-year-old Carlo Tavecchio, former head of the Italian Amateur Football Federation, had spoken of the need for stricter controls on African players brought into Italian football, saying: "England checks out players when they arrive in the country, to see if they are professional enough to play. With us, however, "Opti Poba", who yesterday was eating bananas, today is first choice at Lazio . . . "

Despite the huge controversy prompted by these remarks, Tavecchio’s comments met with only silence from the ranks of club directors and owners. Two weeks later, the same silent directors and owners elected him president of the Italian Football Federation.