Inter Striker Lukaku Gets Green Light to Face Juventus as FIGC Rejects Ban

    Romelu Lukaku has been abruptly cleared to face Juventus in the second leg of Inter’s Coppa Italia semi-finals as Italian football bosses canceled a red card he received for countering racist slurs.

    Intervention by Italian Football Association (FIGC) President Gabriele Gravina on Saturday led to the cancellation of Lukaku’s second yellow card in the first leg of the match against Juventus.

    This is despite FIGC announcing on Friday that the ban would remain in place, followed by an outraged response from Inter.

    Inter reacted with dismay and “great regret” to Friday’s ruling, saying it appeared Lukaku was found to be “the only party at fault” despite being the victim.

    Gravina’s decision to subsequently annul the verdict was warmly welcomed by Lukaku, who said in a statement on Inter’s website: “I am very pleased with this decision by the FIGC President, who has shown great sensitivity to the situation.

    “I believe that due to his intervention, justice has been served, and this sends a great signal to the whole world of sports and beyond. It showed that there is a will to fight racism.”

    The initial decision to uphold the red card and suspension had all the trappings of an embarrassing own goal for FIGC amid attempts to show they took racism seriously.

    Belgian striker Lukaku converted a penalty five minutes into stoppage time to give Inter a 1-1 draw in the first leg of the semi-final on 4 April at the Allianz Stadium.

    He then used his finger to calm the vitriol of the home supporters, a reaction that referee Davide Massa ruled was a punitive offence. Lukaku had already been booked for a foul in the 80th minute, so a second yellow card resulted in him being sent off.

    The Inter frontman, who is on loan from Chelsea, subsequently demanded action from the Italian authorities after the last time he was the target of abuse, while his teammate Edin Dzeko described the treatment by Juventus fans as – something that “should never happen”.

    FIFA President Gianni Infantino called the violations “unacceptable” and urged those responsible to be punished.

    A partial stadium closure was initially imposed on Juventus due to Lukaku being a target, and the part where the abuse came from was ordered to close for one game, but the decision was overturned without explanation.

    The second leg will take place on Wednesday at the San Siro and Inter head coach Simone Inzaghi will be happy to have Lukaku available.

    Saturday’s apparent sound decision by the FIGC was announced in a statement to the Italian media saying that Lukaku had been pardoned in an “exceptional and extraordinary manner”.

    The FIGC statement added: “The principle of combating all forms of racism is a fundamental element of the sports system.”

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