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Juan Jesus: “I behaved like a gentleman”

The racism incident involving Juan Jesus and Francesco Acerbi is entering the next round. After a sports judge acquitted the Italian international on Tuesday, the Brazilian central defender has now made a statement full of dismay

In a nutshell: During the Serie A match between Inter Milan and SSC Napoli, Napoli defender Juan Jesus was allegedly racially insulted by Inter player Francesco Acerbi. As a first consequence, the Milan player was excluded from the Italian national team’s international training course and thus missed both tests (2:1 against Venezuela and 2:0 against Ecuador) and the Squadra Azzurra just a few months before the European Championship.

After both professionals had addressed the public several times via social media and failed to reach a consensus, a sports judge from the Italian league ruled on the matter on Tuesday. The result: due to a lack of evidence, the court acquitted Acerbi and therefore did not impose a penalty; the 36-year-old would have faced a ban in the event of a conviction.

“Great disappointment” about the verdict

In the course of this, Juan Jesus and his legal representative have now made a detailed statement, which was published on the SSC Napoli club website. “I have read several times and with great disappointment the decision of the sports court, which was of the opinion that there is no evidence that I was the victim of a racist insult during the match between Inter and Napoli on March 17.”

Although the 32-year-old Brazilian respects the decision, it is still “difficult to understand and leaves a bitter aftertaste”. The central defender went on to describe his emotional state and spoke of being “devastated by such a serious incident”. “My only mistake was that I behaved like a gentleman by deciding not to interrupt an important game, with all the inconvenience this would have caused the spectators”.

Juan Jesus feels “in no way protected by a decision which, on the one hand, acknowledges that ‘the insult was undoubtedly present’ but, on the other hand, claims that it is not certain that it was a discriminatory insult that only I perceived ‘in good faith'”.

Jesus cannot understand Acerbi’s change of heart

According to the Napoli player, Acerbi insulted him in the worst possible way because of his skin color, not only using the Italian equivalent of the “N-word”, but also belittling Juan Jesus. The 32-year-old “really doesn’t understand” how this can be considered “certainly offensive, but not discriminatory”. Acerbi himself reportedly apologized on the pitch. “I can’t understand why Acerbi only changed his version of events the next day, when he was traveling with the national team, instead of denying them immediately after the game when they had actually happened”.

Juan Jesus also fears “that this could be a serious precedent for justifying certain behaviors after the fact”. In conclusion, he hopes “that this sad (for me) matter can help the world of soccer to reflect on a serious and urgent problem”.

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