Looking Forward

Stuff that matters

Players and officials united to take a stand against racism in the Parc des Princes on Wednesday, as the postponed Champions League fixture between Paris Saint-Germain and Istanbul Basaksehir was resolved resoundingly in favour of the French side.

A Neymar hat-trick in a 5-1 romp meant PSG claimed top spot in Group H ahead of fellow qualifiers RB Leipzig. The indelible moment of the evening, however, came just before kick off when both teams took the knee and raised their fists as the Champions League anthem played.

The players were joined by referee Danny Makkelie and his assistants, a new team drafted in to replace officials who are now the subject of a Uefa investigation over alleged racially insensitive remarks that led to both teams leaving the pitch and the tie being suspended on Tuesday.

European football’s governing body has confirmed that an ethics and disciplinary inspector has been appointed to conduct an investigation into an encounter involving fourth official Constantin Coltescu, which could see the Romanian banned for a minimum of 10 matches.

The incident is said to have occurred after Coltescu recommended the sending-off of Istanbul’s assistant manager Pierre Webo to the referee, Ovidiu Hategan, a fellow Romanian, in the 14th minute. Coltescu is alleged to have pointed out the former Cameroon international to Hategan by saying: “The black one over there. Go and check who he is. The black one over there, it’s not possible to act like that.”

The substitute Demba Ba confronted Coltescu and asked why he described Webo with reference to his skin colour. “You never say ‘this white guy’, you say ‘this guy’,” Ba was heard to say. “So why when you mention a black guy do you have to say ‘this black guy?’” Both teams abandoned the field moments afterwards.

Under Article 14 of Uefa’s disciplinary regulations, which apply to match officials as well as to players, any individual who “insults the human dignity of a person … on whatever grounds, including skin colour, race, religion, ethnic origin, gender or sexual orientation” will be subject to a ban of at least 10 matches.

“Webo was really, really sad,” said the Basaksehir manager Okan Buruk after the 5-1 win. “We supported him, but it was not him who must have felt bad. The culprit is the person who said these words. He’s the one who must be feeling bad. We showed that we were all together with Webo. We must stop this, live together. Humanity is the most important thing.”

Buruk also accused the referee Hategan of failing to properly manage the situation after the alleged comments made by compatriot Coltescu.
“The fourth official used an unacceptable word. The referee should have dealt with the situation properly but didn’t. We had to show that we were with Webo,” continued Buruk. “The players decided to stop. Some of them didn’t want to come back out. We are a team and we had to stick together.”

Webo’s red card has been suspended pending the outcome of the investigation and he joined his colleagues and competitors in entering the ground in a “No to racism” T-shirt. Banners hanging around the empty stadium also expressed the solidarity of Paris fans. “Soutien a M Webo… fiers des jouers… against racism,” read one which translated means “we support Webo… proud of the players”.

The terms and length of the Uefa investigation will be determined by the investigator and have, as yet, not been confirmed. The incident itself provoked a flurry of solidarity, and some dissent, across the football world.

The international players’ union, Fifpro, praised the unified actions of the players. “Racial or discriminatory language has no place in our game,” it said in a statement. “The actions by Istanbul Basaksehir and PSG show players will not tolerate it. Fifpro strongly supports the historic solidarity of the teams in response to the apparent racial abuse.”

José Mourinho said that the match will become “quite iconic” because of the actions of the players. “For a Champions League game to stop after 15 minutes for a very sad reason, hopefully it will never happen again,” he said. “As a football guy I am very sorry that the situation happened in my industry.”

The Benfica manager, Jorge Jesus, provoked controversy however when he said claims of racism in football were currently “fashionable”.

“I don’t know what happened, what was said, but nowadays all this about racism is very fashionable,” Jesus said ahead of his side’s Europa League tie against Standard Liège. “These days anything that is said about a black person is always a sign of racism, and the same thing about a white man is no longer a sign of racism. It’s a wave that is taking over the world. Maybe there was a sign of racism, but I don’t know what they said to that coach.”

The president of the Romanian football federation, Razvan Burleanu, told the Romanian sports news website ProSport: “If it is proved that we are talking about racism, there will be no understanding on my part. However, we must wait for all the actual details of this incident before drawing conclusions. The intention doesn’t appear to have been to insult, I think that is obvious. The Uefa report will clarify the incident and the measure of guilt for those involved.”