Romelu Lukaku's Coppa Italia suspension reversed after backlash as Italian federation cites racist abuse against Inter striker
- Lukaku sent off after reacting to racist abuse
- Appeal rejected on Friday
- Now available after FIGC reversed suspension
WHAT HAPPENED? The Belgian forward was sent off for his "shh" celebration to the home crowd in the first leg, following a series of abhorrent racist insults and gestures. Despite condemnation for such acts across Italian football, Lukaku's ban was upheld after Inter's appeal was rejected on Friday. Now, following significant backlash, the Italian federation (FIGC) has decided to reverse its decision.
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WHAT THEY SAID: According to Italian journalist Daniele Mari, FIGC president Gabriele Gravina elected to pardon Lukaku "in an exceptional and extraordinary way" with the official claiming "the principle of the fight against all forms of racism is a fundamental element of the sports system."
THE BIGGER PICTURE: In reality, the decision comes after some vehement backlash. Opposition was strong when the suspension was first handed down, but grew significantly when Inter's appeal for Lukaku was rejected while Juventus' - whose fans were responsible for the racist gestures - was granted. The Turin side saw their punishment of temporary stadium closures postponed until after Sunday's league match against Napoli.
IN THREE PHOTOS:
WHAT NEXT? With just one non-penalty goal to his name since re-joining on loan from Chelsea in the summer, Lukaku's inclusion may not benefit Inter significantly in the semi-final second leg, which takes place on Wednesday. But the message it sends is undoubtedly an important one, as Italian football continues to claw its way out of a tarnished history of racist abuse in its stadiums.