Milan: Inter Milan striker Romelu Lukaku will play in the Coppa Italia semi-final second leg against Juventus on Wednesday after his one-match ban was overturned on Saturday by the president of the Italian Football Federation (FIGC) as a measure to fight racism.
Inter expressed their disappointment on Friday when Italy’s Sports Court of Appeal upheld the ban for Lukaku, imposed after his expulsion for a second yellow card, saying the Belgian player had been punished despite being racially abused in the semi-final’s first leg.
Fight against racism
However, FIGC President Gabriele Gravina overturned the suspension after evaluating the report of the Federal Prosecutor’s Office, the federation said.
The report indicated “unequivocally that the behaviour of the player sanctioned by the match director followed the serious and repeated displays of hatred and racial discrimination by the opposing fans”, the FIGC statement added.
“The measure reiterates how the fight against all forms of racism constitutes one of the founding principles of the sporting system,” it said.
Lukaku was happy with the decision, saying the president had shown great sensitivity to the situation.
“I believe that thanks to his intervention justice has been done and this sends out a great message to the whole world of sport and beyond,” Lukaku said.
“This has shown that the desire is there to fight racism.”
The striker was subjected to racial abuse during the first leg at Juventus “before, during, and after the penalty” he scored to earn Inter a 1-1 draw, the player’s representatives said. Lukaku was then sent off after receiving a second yellow card for his goal celebration during which he held his finger up to his mouth in front of Juve fans, a gesture which was judged to be provocative.
Lukaku shot Inter Milan to a 3-0 win over struggling Empoli on Sunday with his first Serie A goals from open play since the opening day of what has been a difficult return season in Italy.
Belgium striker Lukaku netted two fine low finishes in the second half at the Stadio Castellani to help Inter to their first win in Italy’s top flight since early March and move them above AC Milan into fifth, two points from the last Champions League place currently held by Roma.