Paris (AFP) – Paris Saint-Germain beat Istanbul Basaksehir 5-1 on Wednesday with Neymar scoring a hat-trick as both teams took a knee before restarting their Champions League match suspended 24 hours earlier in an unprecedented protest over an allegedly racist comment by a match official.
The teams, who had joined forces on Tuesday to walk off the pitch following the row, gathered around the centre circle prior to the resumption and were joined by the match officials as they kneeled in support of the Black Lives Matter cause.
Before that they sported t-shirts with the slogan “No To Racism” while warming up at the Parc des Princes, where large banners in the empty stands carried the same message.
The game restarted where it had stopped the previous day, in the 14th minute, when a touchline argument erupted over accusations the Romanian fourth official, Sebastian Coltescu, had described Basaksehir’s Cameroonian assistant coach Pierre Webo as “black”, or “negru” in Romanian.
Coltescu and the other Romanian match officials were replaced for the restart by a new refereeing team headed by the Netherlands’ Danny Makkelie.
Already qualified for the last 16 thanks to Manchester United’s defeat to RB Leipzig in Germany on Tuesday, PSG still needed to win the restarted game to secure top spot in their group and cruised to victory with Neymar outstanding.
– Neymar hat-trick –
He curled in a stunning opener before making it 2-0 and then won a penalty which Kylian Mbappe converted for the third goal before half-time.
Neymar, the world’s most expensive footballer, completed his hat-trick with another brilliant hit after the interval, and Mbappe got PSG’s fifth following a reply by Mehmet Topal for Basaksehir.
The Turkish side had already been eliminated before this game but they have left their mark on the Champions League with their response to the alleged treatment of Webo, who was sent off as he reacted furiously to the alleged comment.
That red card was suspended by UEFA pending a probe into the matter, with European football’s governing body promising a “thorough investigation”.
Basaksehir are understood to have close ties to Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, and he got involved in the row on Tuesday, tweeting that he “strongly condemns the racist remarks”.
France’s sports minister Roxana Maracineanu, who was born in Romania, praised the players’ “historic decision”.
It was an unprecedented, unified response by the teams, to what Basaksehir midfielder Giuliano called a “disgraceful” comment from the official.
“As a team and a group, we decided to protest because that is unacceptable. Racism has to end,” Giuliano told Brazilian media.
The row flared after Webo was shown the red card.
Television microphones in the empty stadium — matches are taking place without spectators because of Covid-19 restrictions — picked up a furious Webo repeatedly asking why a racist term had been used to describe him.
In the exchange in question between the all-Romanian officiating team, Coltescu said: “The black one over there. This is not possible. Go and identify him. That guy, the black one.”
Basaksehir’s Senegalese forward Demba Ba, among the substitutes for the away side, could be heard remonstrating with the official in English, saying: “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?'”
– ‘Disturbing tipping point’ –
The incident drew reaction from around the world, with Rio Ferdinand, the former Manchester United and England defender and now a TV pundit, saying on BT Sport in the UK: “I think we are at a disturbing tipping point. Not a week goes by without an incident involving race.
“The players walking off is a step in the right direction, but it can’t just be left to them.”
Ferdinand’s brother Anton was involved in a high-profile incident in 2012 when Chelsea player John Terry was accused of racially abusing him during a match in England.
Many athletes have taken a strong stand against racism since Black Lives Matter protests flared around the world over the death of George Floyd during his arrest in Minneapolis in May.
The Turkish champions had refused to restart the game on Tuesday as long as fourth official Coltescu was still involved.
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