A Champions League match between Paris Saint-Germain and Istanbul’s Basaksehir F.K. was called off last night, early in the first half, after both teams walked off the pitch. This took place in response to alleged racial abuse from a match official.
The Turkish team left the pitch first, after its assistant coach, former Cameroon striker Pierre Webó, was allegedly subjected to racial abuse from Sebastian Coltescu, the fourth referee.
Coltescu had instructed the match referee to send Webó off the pitch, after he protested a decision, and allegedly referred to him using racial language.
According to the official Basaksehir Twitter account (translated from the original Turkish): “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 Webó.”
They also uploaded footage of the incident, showing a heated exchange on the pitch.
Baaksehir’s star striker, Demba Ba, remonstrated with the referee, saying: "You never say, 'This white guy, that white guy.' But when it's a Black guy, you have to say, 'This Black guy.’”
Afterwards, Basaksehir’s players refused to continue and left the pitch, followed shortly by the PSG squad. After the match, PSG players Presnel Kimpembe and Kylian Mbappe posted messages of solidarity with their opponents on Twitter.
UEFA has released a statement acknowledging the incident, which reads: “UEFA is aware of an incident during tonight’s Champions League match between Paris Saint-Germain and Istanbul Basaksehir and will be conducting a thorough investigation. Racism, and discrimination in all its forms, has no place within football."
The match has been rescheduled for today (Wednesday), starting from the 14th minute and with a new set of officials.
This latest incident comes during a fraught week for racism in football. Last Saturday, a cohort of Millwall fans booed their own players for “taking the knee”, a form of protest against racial injustice inspired by the Black Lives Matter movement.
Last night, during a game between Millwall and Queen’s Park Rangers, QPR midfielder Ilias Chair celebrated a goal by taking the knee, alongside a number of his teammates, who joined him in this gesture of solidarity. Prior to the game, both teams joined together and held aloft a banner reading, “Inequality: United for Change”, which was met with applause from the crowd.
Prior to kick-off, Millwall released a statement: “Players from Millwall and Queens Park Rangers will stand arm-in-arm with each other in a show of solidarity for football's fight against discrimination ahead of kick-off at The Den on Tuesday night. The two teams will hold aloft a banner to show their collective commitment towards ongoing efforts to rid the game of racism in a positive move which has been supported by Kick It Out, Show Racism The Red Card, The PFA, The FA and The EFL following discussions with the club in recent days.”
Millwall hopes to repeat this gesture with other visiting teams in the the future, in an effort to tackle racism within the game. It also issued a warning, reminding fans that anyone found guilty of racial abuse will be banned for life.