Former Olympian May to front Italian soccer’s new anti-racism campaign

Fiona May (C) will front an anti-racism campaign for Italian soccer.

Valerio Pennicino/Getty Images

Italian football’s new anti-racism campaign is being fronted by former Olympic long-jumper Fiona May.

The initiative will use England’s friendly in Turin on Tuesday to promote their cause, with English-born May admitting she faces a tough challenge stamping it out.

May, who was appointed by Italian FA’s controversial president Carlo Tavecchio in September, said: "I didn’t accept it straight away – it was a pretty daunting task, but I do like a challenge and felt it was important to show a bit of courage.

"There was nothing existing, we have to start from scratch and the main thrust is to target youngsters, the next generation."

Tavecchio was banned from the game for six months in November for using the phrase "eating bananas" when referring to foreign players and, since then, former Italy coach Arrigo Sacchi sparked further outrage when he claimed there was "too many black players, even in the youth teams" in the country.

Of Sacchi’s actions, May added: "I was shocked and disappointed – he’s a big name in Italy and it didn’t exactly help our cause."

The events around the Italy v England match will mainly target registered players aged between 10 and 18, and will include educational programmes in regional schools, a talk show targeted at teenagers plus a social media campaign.

Juventus and Torino have both promised one first-team player to take part in the events as well as local politicians in Turin.

When asked if England players could be subjected to racist abuse on Tuesday, May said: "I can’t say it’s not going to happen, but I really hope not – and we know FIFA and UEFA are now watching these matches very, very closely.

"The legislation has to change, has to be stronger. But at least we are doing something now and slowly but surely I believe it’s changing."