Rome (AFP) - Tens of thousands of people have signed a petition calling for scandal-plagued Carlo Tavecchio to step down as a candidate for president of the Italian football federation over his racist remarks.
"We have already gathered 26,600 signatures which will be sent to the heads of FIFA, UEFA and CONI (the Italian Olympic Committee)," centre-left member of parliament Khalid Chaouki said at a press conference in Rome on Thursday.
"We want to show people that there are other ways to deal with racism."
Tavecchio, 71, sparked outrage in Italy two weeks ago by referring to Paul Pogba, the France international who plays for Juventus, as someone "who previously ate bananas and then suddenly becomes a first-team player at Lazio".
The Italian FA vice-president later apologised but denied accusations of racism, and has refused to withdraw from the race. The election to select the next federation president is scheduled for August 11.
"Tavecchio's statement would have been offensive if he had made it in a bar, let alone in a public meeting," said former Italian defender Joseph Dayo Oshadogan, the first player of Nigerian descent to play for the national under-21 team.
"This old-fashioned way of thinking does not represent the historical and cultural state of Italy today," he said.
On Monday, Tavecchio received a boost from the lower league clubs in the third and fourth divisions, who agreed to back him despite the scandal.