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‘Too many blacks’ in under-20 ranks: Sacchi

Former AC Milan and Italy coach Arrigo Sacchi has hit out at Italy's youth set-up by claiming it features 'too many blacks' and 'too many foreigners'.

'Too many blacks' in under-20 ranks: Sacchi
Former AC Milan and Italy coach Arrigo Sacchi said Italy's youth set-up features 'too many blacks'. Photo: Javier Soriano/AFP

Sacchi, a renowned football coach and innovator who notably helped Milan to back-to-back European Cups in 1989 and 1990, was speaking at an awards ceremony in Montecatini Terme on Monday evening.

According to a website report on La Gazzetta dello Sport, the 68-year-old Sacchi used the occasion to hit out at the number of non-native Italians involved in the lower ranks of Italian football.

"Italy now has no dignity or pride, because we have too many foreigners playing in the under-20 leagues: in our youth sectors there are too many blacks," said Sacchi, a former director of Italy's national team at under-21 level.

Sacchi claimed he was not racist because he signed a player like Frank Rijkaard, a Dutchman of Surinamese origin.

But he insisted that 'too many coloured players' featured for Italian youth sides at the famous Viareggio tournament, known in footballing circles as the Viareggio Cup World Football Tournament.

"I'm certainly not racist, as my coaching history demonstrates with Rijkaard," added Sacchi.

"But look at the Viareggio tournament. I would say that there are too many coloured players, also in the under-20 teams in Italy."

When asked to clarify his remarks, Sacchi claims he had been misinterpreted.

"I've been misinterpreted, you think I'm really racist? All I said was I saw a game featuring a team who fielded four coloured players," he added.

My history speaks for itself, I've always coached teams with great players from every colour and I've brought in a lot, whether to Milan or (Real) Madrid.

"I only wanted to underline that we are losing our national pride and identity."

FOOTBALL

Euro 2020: Concern about virus spread after Italy players’ ‘unauthorised’ victory parade through Rome

Italy’s national football team reportedly insisted on taking an open-top bus tour through Rome to show off their European Championship trophy to crowds of fans - despite city authorities forbidding it amid concern about the spread of coronavirus.

Euro 2020: Concern about virus spread after Italy players' ‘unauthorised’ victory parade through Rome
Photo: Tiziana Fabi/AFP

The team’s bus parade through the city on Monday night following their Euro 2020 triumph “was not authorised”, according to Matteo Piantedosi the head of Rome’s prefettura (the public safety authority).

Thousands of fans packed the streets of central Rome to see the team celebrate their cup win after beating England on penalties in the final.

READ ALSO: ‘Football came home’: Italy celebrates Euro 2020 victory over England

Piantedosi told Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera on Wednesday: “We had denied permission to celebrate Italy’s victory in the European Championships on the open bus, but the pact was not respected.”

Piantedosi, who is Rome’s top public security official, said police had “no choice” but to let the parade go ahead after players Giorgio Chiellini and Leonardo Bonucci insisted on it.

Photo: Vincenzo Pinto/AFP

A meeting had been held on Friday with the Italian football federation (FIGC) to discuss plans for the celebrations if Italy won, said Piantedosi.

“I had agreed the line with Interior Minister Luciana Lamorgese and Chief of Police Lamberto Giannini,” he said.

“It was clearly explained that [the parade] was not possible. We said we could not authorize it.”

Piantedosi said the Italian football federation (FIGC) initially agreed to hold a “controlled” ceremony in Rome’s central Piazza del Popolo instead of the parade.

After players insisted on the bus tour on Monday however, Piantedosi said, authorities reluctantly let them go ahead due to fears of sparking public disorder.

“At that point we had no choice but to acknowledge the situation and handle it in the best way we could,” he said.

READ ALSO: Covid cases on the rise in Europe once again as WHO warns of Euro 2020 risk

Photo: Andreas Solaro/AFP

In a statement on Wednesday, the FIGC said it had acted responsibly but decided not to disappoint fans who had come to celebrate with the team.

Footage of large crowds thronging the bus carrying the ‘Azzurri’ and the European Championship trophy through the capital however fuelled concerns about new outbreaks of coronavirus, after Italy’s infection rate began to rise again last week.

The World Health Organization warned earlier this month that crowds and gatherings connected to football matches will fuel a new rise in cases across Europe this summer.

READ ALSO: Delta variant in Italy will be ‘prevalent within 10 days’: health official

Italy’s health minister Roberto Speranza also voiced concerns on Monday about the consequences of people gathering to watch sporting events.

He said the European football championship win was “a great joy after terrible months,” but “even in these moments of national pride we can’t forget that our ‘game’ to defeat Covid is not yet won.”

There are currently minimal health restrictions in place across Italy, however masks are supposed to be worn in crowded public places, including outdoors.

“Footage shows that police were virtually the only ones [in the crowd] wearing masks,” said Piantedosi.

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