MILAN - The Italian soccer federation is investigating the president of the Palermo soccer club for comparing a player's agent to "Jewish lawyers."

Palermo president Maurizio Zamparini made the comment during an interview with SportMediaset, but said it was meant to be a compliment, not anti-Semitic.

"Prosecutor Stefano Palazzi has opened up an investigation and we will send a letter to Zamparini requesting a hearing in the next few days," the federation said. "We will look into all the facts to understand them fully."

Italian newspaper La Repubblica reported on its website that Zamparini has said he will not show up to the hearing.

"It's up to him if he turns up or not," the federation said. "We will send him a letter asking him to, as we are trying to understand all the facts. But then it's his decision."

Zamparini's comment was in reference to Javier Pastore's agent. Pastore moved from Palermo to Paris Saint-Germain in the offseason.

Zamparini defended his comments.

"The word 'Jewish' is for me synonymous with admiration for enterprising youngsters who look for work and get it intelligently," Zamparini said in a statement. "It was praise changed into an insult. ... I've never been racist, my life proves it."