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Acerbi leaves Italy squad for March friendlies after allegation of racism during Inter vs Napoli


Inter Milan defender Francesco Acerbi has left Italy’s squad for their March friendlies after an incident on Sunday in which Napoli player Juan Jesus appeared to make an allegation of racism to a referee.

Close-up TV images seemed to show an upset Juan Jesus, who is black, pointing at his shirt sleeve, which had a badge reflecting Serie A’s ‘Keep Racism Out’ campaign, while speaking to the official about Acerbi.

Acerbi had joined the Azzurri squad in Rome to fly to the US for friendly matches against Venezuela and Ecuador but the 36-year-old has been replaced by Roma’s Gianluca Mancini.

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In a statement, the Italian football federation (FIGC) said Acerbi had spoken to head coach Luciano Spalletti and his international team-mates to give his own version of “the presumed racist expression” he allegedly used.

“From the Inter defender’s account, pending that what happened is reconstructed with full respect to the autonomy of the sporting justice system, it emerged that there was no defamatory, denigrating or racist intent on his part,” the FIGC said.

“It was nevertheless agreed to leave Acerbi out of the squad for the next two friendly matches in the United States, to guarantee the necessary serenity to the national team and to the player himself, who will return to his club today.”

Juan Jesus: Acerbi ‘a good guy’

Acerbi’s agent and Inter did not immediately respond to requests for comment from ESPN.

Speaking after the match, Brazilian defender Juan Jesus did not disclose further details. “What happens on the field, stays on the field,” he told DAZN.

“Acerbi apologised, he went a bit over the top with his words. He is a good guy. Moreover, obviously we’re adults, we can sort it out on the field.

“He apologised, we moved on and when the referee blows his whistle everything ends there. It’s fine. I hope it doesn’t happen again because he’s an intelligent guy.”

Juan Jesus scored the visitors’ equaliser nine minutes from time and reportedly embraced Acerbi at full-time.

Acerbi could face a lengthy ban if he is found guilty.

Ben Miller
Ben Miller
Ben has more than 10 years' experience in sports journalism, covering two EURO tournaments, European club competitions, the Premier League, EFL and WSL and a variety of other major sporting events.


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