Closet Racist: Italian chief hits out at Serie A clubs after World Cup play-off loss

Italian FA President Gabriele Gravina has accused clubs in the country’s top division of focusing too much on foreign players following their shock World Cup play-off semi-final defeat.

Aleksandar Trajkovski’s last-gasp goal earned minnows North Macedonia a shock 1-0 victory in Palermo and a meeting with Portugal for a place at this year’s tournament in Qatar.

The defeat will almost certainly spark an inquest in Italy, who will now miss a second straight World Cup after missing the 2018 showpiece in Russia after similar heartbreak against Sweden.Italian FA chief Gabriele Gravina (centre) has accused Serie A clubs of focusing too much on foreign playersItaly have failed to make a second consecutive World Cup after defeat by North Macedonia

But Gravina who sat next to boss Roberto Mancini in the post-match press conference – slammed Serie A sides’ “resistance” when players are called up, and claims the sides view national team duty as an irritation rather than opportunity.

“Our coaches have a very difficult job choosing players because only circa 30 per cent of the youth team players are Italian,” Gravina said via Football Italia. “Another issue is that while the lads arrive with enthusiasm, every time we call them up, the clubs put up resistance. They see the Nazionale as more of an irritation than an opportunity”.

It comes after Gravina’s request last month for Italy’s top flight to postpone a round of Serie A fixtures was rejected.Gravina slammed Serie A sides' 'resistance' when players are called up to play for the Azzurri

Gravina was eager to delay the 30th round of Serie A fixtures that took place last weekend in order to give the Azzurri as much preparation time as possible.

But asked if he was angry that the proposal which would have allowed Mancini’s men three days to prepare for the play-off semi-final, he said: “It’s disappointing the lads basically only had one full day of training. That doesn’t help, but I don’t want to cause controversy”.

Former Man City boss Mancini’s future is set to come under further scrutiny despite leading Italy to Euro 2020 glory just last summer.Gravina gave his backing to boss Roberto Mancini after their shock defeat in Palermo

The 57-year-old signed a contract extension with the Azzurri until 2026 in May last year, and Gravina insists there are no plans on his part to part ways. 

“I hope Mancini continues with us,” Gravina added. “He has a commitment with us for this project, I hope he can shake off this elimination just like all the Italians and that he remains at the helm to continue our work together.”

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