New Delhi: The Champions League football tie between Paris Saint-Germain and Istanbul Basaksehir late Tuesday night was called off in the 23rd minute after players from both sides walked off the pitch in the French capital following racism allegations against a fourth official.
UEFA, the game’s governing body in Europe, has said that it will conduct an “thorough investigation” into the allegations. “Racism, and discrimination in all its forms, has no place within football,” it said.
The trouble began around the 14th minute when the Istanbul Basaksehir assistant coach Pierre Webo, a former Cameroon international, objected to a refereeing decision. While Webo copped a red card for dissent, he accused the Romanian fourth official, Sebastian Coltescu, of identifying him to the referee using a racial slur.
With an empty stadium due to Covid protocols, cameras caught Webo confronting and accusing Coltescu of calling him a “negro”. “Why did you say negro?” he can be heard asking repeatedly.
Istanbul Basaksehir vs PSG #UCL match suspended.#Cameroon’s Pierre Webo (assistant manager) was shown a red card. So, it appears both sets of players are unhappy with ‘negro’ word the fourth official has said.
And all the players have left the pitch. pic.twitter.com/wcOMMQU9nu
— Oluwashina Okeleji (@oluwashina) December 8, 2020
Webo was backed up by Istanbul Basaksehir’s Senegalese striker, Demba Ba, who once plied his trade with Chelsea in the English Premier League. Demba Ba appeared to accuse Coltescu of identifying Webo as “the Black guy” to referee Ovidiu Hategan who was about to flash the red card.
“When you mention a white guy, you never say ‘this white guy’, you just say ‘this guy,’ so why when you mention a black guy do you say ‘this black guy?’” he can be heard saying.
Before long, the PSG players began showing solidarity and the group marched off the pitch.
Webo gets support
After its players walked of the field, Turkish club Istanbul Başakşehir put out a statement backing them.
“In the Paris Saint Germain match, our footballers decided not to go on the field due to the racism that the 4th referee Sebastian Coltescu had against our assistant coach Pierre Webo,” it said, adding, “We are a family, no to racism.”
— İstanbul Başakşehir (@ibfk2014) December 9, 2020
PSG forward Kylian Mbappe tweeted in support of Webo and said, ‘SAY NO TO RACISM. M. WEBO WE ARE WITH YOU.”
SAY NO TO RACISM. ❌❌❌
M.WEBO WE ARE WITH YOU. ✊🏽
— Kylian Mbappé (@KMbappe) December 8, 2020
The match will resume at 11.25 pm tonight but with different officials.
A UEFA spokesperson told CNN, “Following an alleged incident involving the 4th official, the match was temporarily suspended…After consultation with both teams, it was agreed that the match would restart with a different 4th official.”
Not the first time players have walked off the pitch
While footballers walking off the field to protest racism is rare, it has happened in the past.
In 2013, players from the Italian club AC Milan walked off the pitch, during a friendly match with fourth division Pro Patria, after the club’s striker, Ghanaian Kevin-Prince Boateng, accused the crowd of racial abuse.
In October 2020, during a Portugal Primeira Liga match, Porto striker Moussa Marega walked off the field after he was given a yellow card by match officials for reacting to racial slurs being hurled at him by fans.
After he scored a goal, one of the spectators threw a seat at him, Marega picked it up and put on his head, for which he got a yellow card.
Angered, Marega walked off the field and later posted, “I hope I never see you on a field again (to the spectators). You are a disgrace! And I also thank the referees for not defending me and giving me a yellow card because I defend my skin colour.”
Former goalkeeper for Spain Iker Casillas tweeted in support of Marega at the time. “Respect for Marega. Respect for football. Respect for all,” he said.
In the same month, during a league match in the US, players of the San Diego Loyal walked off the pitch at the start of the second half because one of their players was allegedly subjected to a homophobic slur by an opposing player of the Phoenix Rising club. San Diego Loyal was up 3-1 when they forfeited the match. However, Phoenix’s Junior Flemmings termed the accusations as being false.