Rome (AFP) - New Italian Football Federation (FIGC) president Carlo Tavecchio said on Monday that he had "a clear conscience" despite his election campaign being marred by a furore over a racist comment.
"I adopted three African children, I also run a tomato-growing cooperative there and built two hospitals," Tavecchio, who was voted in last Monday, pointed out at the end of his first federal board meeting in Rome.
On July 25, he said at a public meeting that "Here we get 'Opti Poba' who previously ate bananas and then suddenly becomes a first-team player at Lazio."
The comments, which appeared to be aimed at France and Juventus midfielder Paul Pogba, sparked controversy in Italy.
However, Tavecchio said that he had received "letters of support from Africa written by doctors, religious people and members of civil society.
"I didn't mean to hurt anybody," insisted the 71-year-old before an audience of Italian football administrators before saying that he "had already apologised" and that "it is what one does that counts".
On being elected, Tavecchio promised to clean up his image, admitting that he was "a bit rugged and not very glamorous."
"I am aware that I am starting at a disadvantage but I will do everything to recover, it will be an obstacle course for me."
Tavecchio is expected to name former long jump great British-born naturalised Italian Fiona May, who won two world outdoor titles and two Olympic silver medals, to the role of advisor for integration.
He also said that new national team coach Antonio Conte, set to be officially unveiled on Tuesday, "will be a positive shock" for the Azzurri after their poor showing at the World Cup where they exited at the group stage.