Italian TV pundit who claimed Lukaku can only be stopped with 10 bananas denies he's racist

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The 80-year-old suspended for his comments about the Inter striker says he is from a multicultural background

An Italian sports pundit suspended after he made a racist remark on air about Inter striker Romelu Lukaku has denied he is a racist.

Luciano Passirani made the comments on TopCalcio24 on Sunday while praising Lukaku's performances for Inter this season after the Nerazzurri earned a third win from as many Serie A games by beating Udinese 1-0.

Speaking on the Qui Studio a Voi Stadio show, Passirani started off by saying: "I don't see any other player in Italy now like Lukaku. [...] I really like him," before adding, "the only way to stop him is to say, 'Here are 10 bananas that you can eat'."

A clip was subsequently shared on social media of the incident and Passirani has now been banned from appearing on the show.

"Mr Passirani is 80 years old and to compliment Lukaku he used a metaphor that turned out to be racist," said programme director Fabio Ravezzani.

"I think it was a terrible lack of momentary lucidity. I cannot tolerate any kind of errors, even if momentary."

Passirani has now attempted to set the record straight and says he would like the opportunity to apologise in person to the Belgium international.

He told Corriere dello Sport: "I have been in the world of football for 40 years and have never received a suspension for behaviour in any of the roles I have held, but I accept the decision made against me."

But he stressed: "I would not like to pass for a racist. My partner who has lived with me for 17 years is black, I have two black granddaughters. I am not a racist and I believe I am an educated person in every respect.

"In my career I met so many black players and I never had any problems."

Lukaku made the move to Inter from Manchester United in August and has scored twice in three Serie A outings so far. He was the target of abuse in Inter's win over Cagliari at the start of September.

Monkey chants could be heard as the Belgium striker converted a penalty in the 2-1 win, with Lukaku posting on Instagram afterwards: "Football is a game to be enjoyed and we shouldn't accept any form of discrimination that will put our game in shame.

"Ladies and gentlemen it's 2019 – instead of going forwards we're going backwards."

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