Paris Saint-Germain and Istanbul Basaksehir staged an unprecedented joint walkout over racism by a Champions League match official on Tuesday, prompting UEFA, the sport’s European governing body, to suspend the game and launch an investigation.
The final group game between the two teams, which took place at the Princes Park stadium in Paris, was postponed until Wednesday after players walked off the field saying that fourth official Sebastian Coltescu of Romania used a racial term when identifying Basaksehir’s Cameroonian assistant coach, Pierre Webo.
“I strongly condemn the racist remarks made against Pierre Webo, one of our representatives in the Basaksehir’s technical team, and I believe that the necessary steps will be taken by UEFA. We are unconditionally against racism and discrimination in sports and all areas of life,” said Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Twitter.
Temsilcimiz Başakşehir’in teknik ekibinden Pierre Webo’ya karşı sarf edilen ırkçı sözleri şiddetle kınıyor, UEFA tarafından gereken adımların atılacağına inanıyorum.
Sporda ve hayatın tüm alanlarında ırkçılığa ve ayrımcılığa kayıtsız şartsız karşıyız. #Notoracism
— Recep Tayyip Erdoğan (@RTErdogan) December 8, 2020
The flashpoint came on the touchline 14 minutes into the game and an enraged Webo demanded an explanation from Coltescu, repeating at least six times: “Why you say negro?” before he was sent off for his conduct on the sidelines.
“You are racist,” Basaksehir coach Okan Buruk said to Coltescu.
The exchanges were broadcast live around the world from football’s biggest club competition.
Racism In Paris. pic.twitter.com/x9Y9mzZKC1
— Juliet Bawuah (@julietbawuah) December 8, 2020
Both teams turned to Twitter to express their disapproval of the events.
Basaksehir’s official Twitter page published a statement saying “our footballers decided not to go on the field due to the racism that the 4th referee Sebastian Coltescu expressed against our assistant coach Pierre Webo”.
— İstanbul Başakşehir (@ibfk2014) December 8, 2020
PSG echoed the sentiment, tweeting that “any form of racism goes against the values conveyed by Paris Saint-Germain, its President, its staff and its players”.
Basaksehir substitute Demba Ba demanded that the fourth official explain himself, while PSG players Neymar and Kylian Mbappe also demanded an explanation.
SAY NO TO RACISM. ❌❌❌
M.WEBO WE ARE WITH YOU. ✊🏽
— Kylian Mbappé (@KMbappe) December 8, 2020
“The walk-off by both Basaksehir and PSG together lays down a marker in Europe,” Piara Powar, executive director of the anti-discrimination Fare network, told The Associated Press.
“Many players are fed up with half measures to tackle racism and are more prepared than ever to exercise their right to stop a match.
“Our colleagues at the Romanian state anti- discrimination organisation have confirmed it is racist in Romanian to refer to a player by using his race as an identifier. There is no ambiguity. This incident shows the need for much better training of match officials. Unintentional racism is still racism.”
The same Romanian referee who took charge of the game in Paris on Tuesday – Ovidiu Hategan – was also in charge for the 2013 Champions League game when Manchester City player Yaya Toure complained about the lack of action against monkey noises he heard from CSKA Moscow fans.
“If officials cannot set the standards by their own behaviour, they cannot be relied on to deal with racism on the pitch or in the stands,” Powar added.
Referees have often been criticised for not leading players off the pitch and leaving them to take the decision.
England decided to continue playing a men’s international in Montenegro last year after Callum Hudson-Odoi and Danny Rose were targeted with monkey chants.
“The players walking off is a step in the right direction,” former England and Manchester United defender Rio Ferdinand said on Britain’s BT Sport. “But it can’t just be left to them.”