Juan Jesus says he is 'bitter' about Italian league not punishing Acerbi for alleged racial abuse

Wed, Mar 27, 2024
Soccer News (AP)

Juan Jesus says he is 'bitter' about Italian league not punishing Acerbi for alleged racial abuse

MILAN (AP) - Napoli defender Juan Jesus says he has been left feeling "very bitter" and "crestfallen" by the Italian league's decision not to punish Inter Milan player Francesco Acerbi for an allegedly racist remark toward him.

The Italian league's sporting judge announced on Tuesday that there wasn't enough proof that Acerbi's insult to Juan Jesus was racist to impose what would have been a lengthy ban on the Italy defender.

The alleged incident happened during a match between Inter and Napoli on March 17 and the match was halted for about 90 seconds when Juan Jesus, who is Black, told the referee that Acerbi directed a racial slur at him.

"I have read several times and with great disappointment the decision of the sports judge, who felt there was no evidence that I was the victim of a racist insult during the match," Juan Jesus said in a statement on Wednesday. "While respecting the decision, it is one I find difficult to comprehend and it leaves me feeling very bitter.

"Quite honestly I am crestfallen by such a serious incident in which my only mistake was that I dealt with it 'as a gentleman,' deciding not to interrupt an important game, with all the inconvenience that would have caused the spectators watching the match. I did so believing that such an attitude would have been respected, and perhaps taken as an example."

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Juan Jesus was visibly upset when he approached the referee during the second half at San Siro and was also pointing at his shirt sleeve which had a 'Keep Racism Out' badge - as part of the league's anti-racism campaign.

The 32-year-old Brazilian said after the match that Acerbi apologized and seemed to wish to put the matter behind him, adding, "What happens on the field, stays on the field ... he is a good guy."

The Italian soccer federation prosecutor questioned the players and witnesses last week and a report was sent to the Italian league sporting judge, who also studied images from the match, as well as audio from the referee and VAR before making the decision not to sanction Acerbi.

"Following this decision, I imagine that anyone else finding themselves in a similar situation to mine will act in a very different manner, in order to protect themselves and to curb the disgrace of racism, which, sadly, we are struggling to rid ourselves of," Juan Jesus' statement continued.

"I do not feel in any way protected by a decision which both admits that 'there was certainly evidence of the insult' and maintains there is no certainty that it was of a discriminatory nature, which only I perceived 'in good faith.'"

If Acerbi was found guilty, he would have faced a minimum 10-match ban that would have ruled the 36-year-old out of the rest of the season and most likely the European Championship.

Acerbi was sent home from the Italy training camp the day after the match although the federation said it believed "there was no defamatory, denigrating or racist intent on his part."

According to Juan Jesus, Acerbi immediately apologized but the Inter defender has since repeatedly denied he used the slur, saying "no word of that type came out of my mouth" and that Juan Jesus "misunderstood."

"I cannot fathom why Acerbi only started to change his version of the events the following day while with the national team, instead of denying it immediately after the match, when it actually happened," Juan Jesus added.

"I didn't expect it to end like this. I fear - and I hope I am wrong - that this could set a serious precedent for justifying certain behavior after the event. I sincerely hope that this (for me) sad matter can help the world of football to reflect on an issue that is both serious and urgent."


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