Italy’s football federation president became the second major casualty of the Azzurri’s failure to qualify for the World Cup for the first time in 60 years. Carlo Tavecchio resigned Monday amid eroding support, a week after the playoff loss to Sweden and five days after he fired national team coach Gian Piero Ventura.
“I resigned for political reasons, not sports reasons,” an angry Tavecchio said at a news conference. “We missed the World Cup and it has become a tragedy.”
The announcement came after calls for a complete overhaul of the nation’s most popular sport, from amateur leagues right up to Serie A and the national teams.
Four-time champion Italy finished second in its World Cup qualifying group behind Spain and then was beaten by Sweden 1-0 on aggregate in the playoff.
Tavecchio appeared to lay the blame for Italy’s failure solely with fired coach Ventura. He added that it was Marcello Lippi’s decision to hire Ventura when Lippi was being considered for the position of national team adviser – a role that Lippi never officially assumed.
“I’m paying for Ventura even though I didn’t choose him,” said Tavecchio, pointing his finger at a news conference where emotions ran high.
Carlo Ancelotti leads the list of possible successors to Ventura.
“I talked with four or five great coaches. They’re all busy,” Tavecchio said.
For the last week, Tavecchio had resisted calls to step down but he eventually lost the support of the federation’s board of directors. “I resigned instantly. And I asked the entire board to resign, too, but nobody did,” Tavecchio said, adding that he would stay on and guide the federation until elections, which must be held within 90 days.
But it appeared likely that he would be removed sooner by the Italian Olympic Committee (CONI), which oversees all sports in the country. CONI president Giovanni Malago said he would call for the federation to be put under an interim leader as an emergency measure.
Besides poor tactical decisions by Ventura, Italy’s failure has been traced to bad governance and the crumbling stadiums that house the nation’s Serie A clubs. “Someone before me left the seeds and fruits for this tragedy,” Tavecchio said. Players association president Damiano Tommasi said he “hopes the next president is someone who can talk football.”
Tommasi, who played on Italy’s squad at the 2002 World Cup and won the Serie A title with Roma in 2001, added that “it’s not the right time” to say if he will run for the presidency. “Nobody has asked me to yet,” Tommasi said.
A Gazzetta dello Sport poll published on Monday showed that 73 percent of adults in Italy wanted Tavecchio to step down.
There was a precedent since former president Giancarlo Abete and former coach Cesare Prandelli both resigned immediately after Italy was eliminated in the first round of the 2014 World Cup.
Tavecchio was elected to succeed Abete in 2014 despite a racist comment during his election campaign. UEFA banned Tavecchio for six months after he made a reference to bananas when discussing the presence of foreign players in Italy.