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Juan Jesus
Juan Jesus
Napoli’s Jesus bitter over racist probe outcome

ROME: Napoli defender Juan Jesus says he feels “bitter” at the Italian football federation’s decision not to act over alleged racist comments targeted at him by Inter Milan’s Francesco Acerbi. The Brazilian spoke out Wednesday the day after the FIGC shelved their investigation into the incident citing insufficient evidence.

“Although respecting this decision I have difficulty understanding it and it leaves me feeling very bitter,” he declared in a statement published by his club. Initially Jesus played down the matter following Napoli’s 1-1 draw at Inter Milan on March 17 after accepting Acerbi’s on-field apology for unspecified insults.

He now says his conciliatory approach had not had the desired effect. “I am very discouraged at the outcome to a serious affair which I alone was in the wrong for handling it like ‘a gentleman’ in avoiding interrupting an important match, with all the hassle that would have caused for fans, with the hope that my attitude would have been respected and taken perhaps as an example.”.

He feared the federation’s handling of the matter could have undesired consequences. “I didn’t expect this decision which I fear, but I hope I’m wrong, will create an unfortunate precedent to justify certain behaviour.”

Napoli had already said they were “stunned” by the FIGC’s non action. Acerbi, 36, faced a possible Serie A season-ending 10-match suspension which could have ruled him out of Euro 2024 which starts on June 14.

At the time Jesus, 32, had initially explained that Acerbi “realised that he had gone too far” and apologised to him. The day after the match Acerbi joined Italy’s training camp ahead of two friendlies after giving his version of events to his Azzurri teammates and coach Luciano Spalletti “on the alleged racist remark”.

That triggered an angry reaction from Jesus. “I thought that the incident was done with on the pitch and frankly I was hoping not to have to come back to something so despicable,” he posted on social media.

“However today I read Acerbi’s comments which conflict completely with what happened, with what he himself said on the pitch which is backed up by video footage of him asking me for forgiveness. “I’m not having it, racism is going to be fought here and now.”

Napoli on Wednesday confirmed that they would not take part in this weekend’s ‘Keep racism out’ campaign. Napoli players will instead wear a jersey with a message of support for their teammate, local media reported. Meanwhile, Italy’s football federation (FIGC) on Tuesday dropped a probe into alleged racist comments made by Inter Milan’s Italian international Francesco Acerbi to Napoli’s Brazilian defender Juan Jesus due to lack of evidence.

Jesus had initially played down the incident following Napoli’s 1-1 draw at Inter Milan earlier this month saying “what happens on the pitch, stays on the pitch” after accepting Acerbi’s on-field apology for unspecified insults.

The FIGC said that “considering that the minimum level of reasonable certainty as to the discriminatory content of the offense committed has not been reached, it was decided not to apply the sanctions”. 

Acerbi, 32, faced a possible 10-match suspension which would end his season with Inter and could have ruled him out of the Euros which start on June 14.

“The discriminatory content, without calling into question the good faith (of Juan Jesus), seems to have been perceived only by the offended player, without the support of any external proof, whether audio, video or even testimony,” the FIGC statement added. – AFP

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