Inter defender Acerbi could face ban if officials find he racially abused Napoli's Juan Jesus

Francesco Acerbi of FC Internazionale in action during the Serie A TIM match between Bologna FC and FC Internazionale - Serie A TIM at Stadio Renato Dall'Ara on March 09, 2024 in Bologna, Italy. 

Inter Milan defender Francesco Acerbi was sent home from Italy's national team training camp on Monday amid an allegation he racially abused Napoli counterpart Juan Jesus in Sunday´s Serie A match.

Juan Jesus, who is Black, was visibly upset in the second half when he walked up to the referee, who then called over Acerbi.

In close-up television images, Juan Jesus seemed to be telling the referee that Acerbi had used a racist slur. Juan Jesus was also pointing at his shirt sleeve, which had a `Keep Racism Out´ badge - as part of the league´s anti-racism campaign.

Acerbi joined up with the Italy squad in Rome before the Azzurri fly to the United States on Tuesday for friendly matches against Venezuela and Ecuador but the 36-year-old has now been replaced by Roma defender Gianluca Mancini.

The Italian soccer federation said in a statement that in accordance with the Azzurri's internal policy, Acerbi spoke to Italy coach Luciano Spalletti and the players and explained 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."

Both Acerbi´s agent and Inter did not immediately respond to requests for a comment and the player has not said anything on his social media accounts.

Juan Jesus would not confirm afterward what happened.

"What happens on the field, stays on the field," the Brazilian told DAZN. "Acerbi apologized, 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 apologized, we moved on and when the referee blows his whistle everything ends there. It´s fine."

Acerbi and Juan Jesus also embraced at the end of the match, which finished in a 1-1 draw - with Juan Jesus scoring a late equalizer against his former team.

"I hope it doesn´t happen again because he´s an intelligent guy," the 32-year-old Juan Jesus added.

Acerbi wasn't disciplined by the referee.

If the Italian soccer federation decides to open an investigation, Acerbi could eventually face a ban of at least 10 matches. Much could depend on what has been written in the referee´s report, which has been sent to the Italian league´s sporting judge.

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