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By Brian Homewood
BERNE, Aug 20 (Reuters) - Italian soccer federation (FIGC) president Carlo Tavecchio is to face a disciplinary investigation by European soccer's governing body over allegedly racist remarks made during his election campaign, UEFA said on Wednesday.
Tavecchio, who was elected FIGC president last week, made a speech in the run-up to the election in which he referred to a fictitious player he called Opti Poba who, he said, "previously ate bananas and then suddenly becomes a first team player with Lazio."
UEFA said in a statement: "Carlo Tavecchio... has today been personally informed by UEFA about the decision of its Chief Ethics and Disciplinary Inspector to open a disciplinary investigation on alleged racist comments made by him during his FIGC presidential election campaign."
UEFA said a report would be handed to its ethics and disciplinary panel "to render a decision about this matter.
"Further details concerning these proceedings will be announced in due course."
Although Tavecchio's comments caused anger in Italy, he was still swept home with 63 percent of the vote in last week's election after receiving the backing of Lega Pro, which represents third and fourth division clubs, and the LND, representing the amateur leagues.
Some Serie A and Serie B clubs also voted for Tavecchio, who sits on UEFA's Youth and Amateur Football Committee.
Coincidentally, Rome will host an anti-discrimination conference organised by UEFA and the FARE group in September.
The World Players' Union FIFPro has already questioned Tavecchio's suitability to lead Italian football and called on him to attend the conference and issue an unreserved apology.
Italy has struggled to control racism in the last few seasons and AC Milan's players walked off the pitch during a friendly match in 2013 after abuse from fans on the terraces.
UEFA's disciplinary code states that "any person... who insults the human dignity or a person or a group of persons on whatever grounds including skin colour, race, religion or ethnic origin, incurs a suspension lasting at least ten matches or a specified period of time, or any other appropriate sanction."
UEFA has handed down a number of partial stadium closures to clubs in the last year in response to criticism that it has not been doing enough to combat racism.
Ruch Chorzow, Slovan Bratislava, Chikhura Sachkhere, Debrecen, Steaua Bucharest, Maribor, Diosgyori, Spartak Trnava and Ferencvaros have all been hit with by partial stadium closures in European matches this season because of racist behaviour by fans. (Editing by Ken Ferris)