International football superstars abandoned a match in Europe’s highest club competition on Wednesday, after a referee allegedly uttered a racist remark in reference to a Black coach.
The Champions League battle between French giants Paris Saint-Germain (PSG) and Turkish stalwarts Istanbul Basaksehir ground to a halt just 14 minutes after kickoff, when Basaksehir players accused fourth official Sebastian Coltescu of using a racist term in reference to assistant coach Pierre Webo.
ESPN states Coltescu spoke to match referee Ovidiu Hategan in Romanian, saying, “The Black one over there, it’s not possible to act like that.” Webo, who is from Cameroon, was displayed a red card over the course of the exchange.
With no fans in attendance due to ongoing COVID-19 restrictions, microphones picked up a subsequent exchange between Basaksehir forward Demba Ba and match officials.
“You never say ‘these White guys’, you say ‘these guys,'” Ba said.
“So why, when you mention, listen to me, why when you mention a Black guy, you have to say ‘This Black guy?'”
ESPN reports Ba also asked, ‘Why did he say ‘negro?'”
Demba ba is pressuring the ref rassslcartttt pic.twitter.com/2GpIdkGMsX
— AZ (@V1Loxzi) December 8, 2020
Players from both teams left the field with the score locked at 0-0, and officials abandoned the match shortly afterwards.
PSG vs Istanbul Basaksehir has been suspended following an alleged racist incident involving the 4th official towards Istanbul's assistant manager. pic.twitter.com/mLIkZiPK7u
— Champions League on CBS Sports (@UCLonCBSSports) December 8, 2020
Basaksehir players including İrfan Kahveci and Martin Škrtel have since shared anti-racist messages on social media.
PSG forward and World Cup winner Kylian Mbappé later declared his support for Webo, while his teammate, Brazilian superstar Neymar, said, “BLACK LIVES MATTER”.
SAY NO TO RACISM. ❌❌❌
M.WEBO WE ARE WITH YOU. ✊????
— Kylian Mbappé (@KMbappe) December 8, 2020
BLACK LIVES MATTER ✊????✊????✊????✊???? pic.twitter.com/Y6114EFMFO
— Neymar Jr (@neymarjr) December 8, 2020
Beyond the players, Basaksehir and PSG both used their official social media outlets to label the remarks as racist.
ℹ Our players has taken a decision NOT TO go back on the pitch after our Assistant Coach, Pierre Webo has been exposed to racist behaviour by the 4th Official.
For the kind consideration. #NoToRacism
— Istanbul Basaksehir ENG (@ibfk2014En) December 8, 2020
UEFA, the sporting body which governs the Champions League, said it will conduct a “thorough investigation” into the incident.
“Racism, and discrimination in all its forms, has no place within football,” the organisation said.
The match will resume tomorrow, with the clock starting from the 14th minute.
Backdropped by this year’s global Black Lives Matter protests, the footballing world has been forced to reckon that permeates the top levels of the sport.
England and Manchester City star Raheem Sterling this year compared racism to the coronavirus, while some fans of English second-tier club Millwall booed players over the weekend for taking a knee in protest against racial discrimination.