Former Italy and AC Milan coach, Arrigo Sacchi has denied being racist after claiming Italy’s youth set-up features “too many blacks.”
Sacchi was critical about the number of “foreigners” in the lower leagues at Maestrelli awards ceremony- the lower leagues gala- on Monday.
He is quoted in Italian media as saying: “In our youth sector there are too many blacks.”
Sacchi was at the Viareggio Cup this month, an event regarded as the most prestigious youth tournament in Italy.
Speaking at the award gala in Tuscany, he said: “I’m not a racist and my history as a coach shows that, but watching at the Viareggio Cup makes me think there are two many coloured players.
“Business interests now come first, Italy has no dignity, it has no pride: you shouldn’t have squads including 15 foreigners.”
The 68-year-old won back-to-back European Cups with Milan in 1989 and 1990 parading a side featuring Dutch attacking trio of Frank Rijkaard, Ruud Gullit and Marco van Basten he signed by himself.
Asked to clarify his comment by La Gazzetta dello Sport later on Monday night, Sacchi said: “I have been misrepresented, do you really think I’m a racist?
“I was just saying that I’d watched a match in which there was a team that included four coloured boys. My history speaks for itself, I’ve always trained teams with diverse coloured players and they won a lot, both Milan and in Madrid.
“I just wanted to underline the fact that we’re losing our national pride and identity.”
Sacchi was in charge of the Azzuri when they emerged runners-up in the 1994 World Cup. His served as director of football at Real Madrid between 2004 and 2005.
In October, the President of Italian football federation, Carlo Tavecchio, was banned for six months by Uefa for making racist remarks.
Tavecchio later apologised for referring to black players as “banana eaters” during his election campaign in July.
Inter Milan were handed a €50,000 fine in February 2013 after their fans were found guilty of racially abusing former Inter striker Mario Balotelli in a derby game against AC Milan.
Two months later, Milan’s Kevin-Prince Boateng walked off the pitch against Italian team Pro Partia after he was racially abused by the crowd.