Following an alleged racist incident concerning Inter defender Francesco Acerbi and Napoli defender Juan Jesus, the Italian Federal Prosecutor’s Office has opened an official investigation.

A clip was first seen circulating on social media of Napoli defender Juan Jesus speaking to the referee in the 58th minute of play. According to fans who were able to read the lips of the Brazilian in an attempt to understand what was said, Jesus informed the official that, “Acerbi called me a n*gro” and followed by making a gesture towards the “Keep Racism Out” patch featured on all Serie A kits as part of a campaign by the league this week.

Following the match, Juan Jesus commented on the incident, including that, “What happens on the pitch, stays on the pitch.” This is an unfortunate, yet unsurprising mentality considering how little has been done to combat racism in Italy over the past years.

Since the incident, Francesco Acerbi has been replaced in the Italian National Team as a precautionary measure. The FIGC released a statement:

“The footballer Francesco Acerbi, who arrived at the national team retreat in Rome this morning, explained to the coach Luciano Spalletti and his teammates, as required by the internal policy of Club Italia, his version of the alleged racist expression reported by the footballer Juan Jesus during the Inter-Napoli match. From the Nerazzurri defender’s report, while waiting for what happened to be reconstructed in compliance with the autonomy of sports justice, it emerged that there was no defamatory, denigrating or racist intent on his part. However, it was agreed to exclude Acerbi from the list of players called up for the next two friendly matches scheduled in the United States, to guarantee the necessary serenity for the national team and for the player himself, who will return to his club today.

Following this news, Inter also released a statement:

FC Internazionale Milano takes note of the official statement released by the FIGC in relation to the events involving Francesco Acerbi during last night’s match against Napoli, and of the fact that the FIGC and Acerbi have agreed that the player will not be involved in the national team’s next two friendlies scheduled in the United States.

FC Internazionale Milano will meet with the player as soon as possible to shed light on the exact details of what happened last night.

According to Italian outlet, Il Mattino, the Federal Prosecutor’s Office has opened an official investigation into what happened. This investigation will be a process and in the coming days, both players will give their sides of the story to determine what happened. La Gazzetta dello Sport has stated that if it is found that Francesco Acerbi is guilty of racial discrimination, then it would be a violation of Article 28 of the Sports Justice Code on “Discriminatory Behaviour”. Sanctions under this code are rightfully quite heavy, with punishments ranging from a suspension of a minimum of ten match days to a “fixed-term disqualification”, in the most serious cases.

Francesco Acerbi has since been caught by the media and spoke for the first time since the incident. The defender stated, via Simone Togna, “I have never said any racist words. Screw racism. Racist phrases have never come out of my mouth, I’m sure of it.”