The annual Champions League competition features the best in European football. On Tuesday, during a match between Paris St. Germain and Istanbul Basaksehir, it was anything but UEFA’s best when both teams abruptly walked off the pitch, quitting mid-match in protest of an ugly incident where a match official allegedly used a racial slur directed at one of the team’s coaches.
Official allegedly directs racial slur at Istanbul Basaksehir assistant
The Champions League group stage match between PSG and Basaksehir was scoreless in the 14th minute when Romanian match referee Ovidiu Hategan paused the action and deliberately walked toward the sidelines where shouting could be heard coming from the bench area of the Turkish team.
It all started moments earlier when the fourth official, Sebastian Coltescu of Romania, made derogatory comments about the Turkish team’s assistant coach Pierre Webo, who is from Cameroon, after the coach questioned a refereeing decision.
“The Black one over there. Go and check who he is. The Black one over there, it’s not possible to act like that,” TV footage captured Coltescu saying in Romanian.
When Hategan arrived on the sideline, he almost immediately gave Webo a red card. Seconds later, Webo was pointing at Coltescu and repeatedly asking, “Why you say negro?”
Both teams immediately react to remarks
While Webo was shepherded away from the officials, Istanbul substitute Demba Ba challenged Hategan. “When you’re mentioning a white guy, you never say this white guy, you say these guys. Listen to me. Why, when you mention a Black guy, do you have to say ‘this Black guy?'” he asked pointedly, the official’s response inaudible.
The anger was not just limited to the Turkish side. PSG defender Presnel Kimpembe was heard on the TV footage as well, expressing his frustration.
“Is he serious? We are heading in. We’re heading in. That’s it, we’re heading in,” he said, indicating the PSG team was already willing to leave the pitch.
For the remainder of the conversation with the officials, both teams demanded Coltescu be removed, or they refused to continue. UEFA offered to swap the fourth official and the assistant VAR, but Basaksehir rejected the offer. Almost 10 minutes after it all started, both teams finally left the pitch and ended the match.
UEFA investigating and Champions League match rescheduled with new officials
Following the match, UEFA responded to the conflict with a statement.
“Following an alleged incident involving the fourth official, the match was temporarily suspended,” the statement said. “After consultation with both teams, it was agreed that the match would restart with a different fourth official. UEFA will thoroughly investigate the matter and further communication will be made in due course.”
The teams showed a unified front after the match was abandoned, with Basaksehir posting UEFA’s “No to Racism” banner on Twitter, which was retweeted by PSG. PSG player Kylian Mbappe tweeted his support of the Basaksehir team.
“SAY NO TO RACISM,” Mbappe wrote. “M. WEBO WE ARE WITH YOU.”
UEFA officials rescheduled the match for Wednesday at 12:55 p.m. ET. It will resume in the 14th minute with a new set of officials. In addition to announcing an investigation into the incident, UEFA also froze Webo’s red card until a decision is reached, allowing him to return to the match when it resumes.