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ROME, Aug 11 (Reuters) - Carlo Tavecchio was elected president of the Italian football federation (FIGC) on Monday, less than one month after he caused an outcry by referring to African players as "banana eaters".
The head of the Italian Amateur Leagues' Association (LDN) overcame his opponent, former Italy and AC Milan midfielder Demetrio Albertini, by winning 63.33 percent of the 278 votes.
The 71-year-old's election will be hugely uncomfortable for world soccer's ruling body FIFA and European equivalent UEFA who have both made the fight against racism a priority and sanction teams whose fans are found guilty of racist abuse.
Tavecchio, who later apologised for his remark on African players, also faces a host of other problems including Serie A decline, falling attendances, match-fixing and a failure to find new talent.
"I will be everyone's president," he told the FIGC assembly in a Rome hotel after being elected. "I ask everyone to forget their differences and get to work."
Tavecchio sparked a race row during a speech to the LDN as he talked about a lack of opportunities for Italian players at professional clubs.
He referred to a fictitious player he named Opti Poba who, he said, "previously ate bananas and then suddenly becomes a first team player with Lazio".
Jeffrey Webb, head of FIFA's racism task force, said "the football community is appalled by the recent racist comments made by Carlo Tavecchio".
Piara Power, executive director of Football Against Racism in Europe (FARE), added: "To have someone who has said the sort of things that he's said, said them in the way he's said them, to become a president of one of the top five footballing countries in Europe really is going to be quite a big shock".
Albertini won the votes of the players' and coaches' associations, plus a number of Serie A clubs, while Tavecchio retained the support of the Lega Pro, representing the third and fourth division clubs, and his own LDN who between them hold more than 50 percent of the votes.
"I wanted to be an alternative but we have revisited the corporatism of the leagues," Albertini told reporters. "It's always a difficult block to disrupt."
Tavecchio replaces Giancarlo Abete who resigned as FIGC president following Italy's group-stage exit at the 2014 World Cup.
One of his first jobs will be to appoint a replacement for former Italy coach Cesare Prandelli who also quit after his side went out of the World Cup.
Antonio Conte, who led Juventus to three successive Serie A titles before resigning last month, is the favourite followed by former Manchester City and Inter Milan coach Roberto Mancini. (Reporting by Brian Homewood, editing by Pritha Sarkar)