Italy's boss walks

November 21, 2017


ROME, Italy (AP):

First it was the captain. Then the coach. And now it's the president. One by one, the totems of Italian football are stepping aside. Gianluigi Buffon made the first move when he announced his retirement from the national team after the Azzurri's failure to qualify for the World Cup.

Two days later, coach Gian Piero Ventura was fired amid widespread criticism.

Then yesterday, federation president Carlo Tavecchio resigned amid eroding support, exactly a week after the playoff loss to Sweden kept Italy out of the World Cup for the first time in six decades.

With the presidencies of Serie A and B also vacant, the nation's most popular sport is in for a complete leadership overhaul.

"I resigned for political reasons, not sports reasons," a furious Tavecchio said. "We missed the World Cup and it became a tragedy.

"This system, this culture, these politics and this management can no longer go on like this." Tavecchio added that reforms are needed "at a general, systemic level".

Four-time champions Italy finished second in their World Cup qualifying group behind Spain and then were 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 it was former Azzurri coach Marcello Lippi's decision to hire Ventura when Lippi was being considered for the position of national team adviser a role 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.

There's plenty of time to hire a new coach, though: Italy won't play another official match for nearly a year.

"It's time for choices," said Maurizio Sarri, the coach of Serie A leader Napoli. "You need to take a broad viewpoint. For example, it's useless to just look at the number of foreigners, because only in Spain there are fewer foreigners playing than here.

"Unfortunately, with the evolution of football I'm no longer convinced that national teams really represent the movement," Sarri added. "Just look at the Premier League which is by far the most important league in Europe but England has a national team that struggles to record great results."

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