An elderly Italian sports pundit intending to compliment Belgian srtriker Romelu Lukaku made a racist comment and was fired from the TV panel. File photo.

While international soccer has made great strides against racism in the sport, it appears it still has a long way to go — even in the press box, unfortunately.

An Italian TV pundit has been sacked after racist comments made regarding soccer star Romelu Lukaku at the weekend, The Independent reported.

Lukaku also experienced racist abuse from Cagliari fans in Inter-Milan’s 2-1 victory earlier this month.

And TopCalcio24’s Luciano Passirani was quickly suspended on Sunday after making shocking comments when discussing how to stop the Belgian striker on the pitch.

”I don’t see any other player in Italy now like Lukaku. […] I really like him,” Passirani said.

“The only way to stop him is to say, Here are ten bananas that you can eat.”

Director Fabio Ravezzani confirmed the veteran journalist will no longer appear on the show, The Independent reported.

“Mr Passirani is 80 years old and to compliment Lukaku he used a metaphor that turned out to be racist,” Ravezzani told the BBC.

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

Racism has long-since been an issue in Italian football, though it appears to be as prevalent as it has been for several years. Some even fear it has regressed.

AC Milan’s Franck Kessie appeared to be targeted by racist abuse from Hellas Verona fans last weekend with apparent monkey noises heard from the stands.

Gazzetta dello Sport report Kessie was the subject of racist chants in the first half of Milan’s 1-0 win on Sunday night, with the chants continuing at half-time.

Stone-faced denials in the face of evidence are sadly common in Serie A and do nothing to advance or help the situation — as expected, Verona blindly and vehemently denied the accusations, insisting they were merely whistles aimed at the referee.

An embarrassing response and unbecoming of a professional sports franchise.

“The boos to Kessie? The insults to Donnarumma? Perhaps someone’s been dazed by the decibels of the Gialloblu fans,” read a club statement.

“What did we hear? Whistles, inevitably, for the the refereeing decisions that still leave us very perplexed, as well as applause for our ‘gladiators’ at the end of the game.

“We won’t fall for these stereotypes. Respect for Verona and the Veronese people.”

Verona were sanctioned for racist abuse in 2014 when aiming monkey chants at Sulley Muntari during Milan’s 3-1 win.

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