PARIS (AFP) – Paris Saint-Germain’s decisive Champions League game with Istanbul Basaksehir on Tuesday (Dec 8) was suspended in the first half as the players walked off amid allegations of racism by one of the match officials, in an unprecedented incident in European football’s elite club competition.
The row erupted after Basaksehir assistant coach Pierre Webo, the former Cameroon international, was shown a red card during a fierce row on the touchline with staff from the Turkish club appearing to accuse the fourth official of using a racist term.
Television microphones picked up a furious Webo repeatedly asking why a racist term had been used to describe him.
The game at the Parc des Princes stopped in the 14th minute while still goalless, with the players walking off around 10 minutes later.
Basaksehir’s Senegal international striker Demba Ba, among the substitutes for the away side, could be heard on television remonstrating with the official, 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?'”
The game, which started at 9pm local time (2000 GMT), had still not restarted 90 minutes after the stoppage, despite some of the PSG players briefly returning to the tunnel to warm up.
The incident sparked a reaction from Turkey’s President, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who is understood to be closely linked to the owners of the club.
He tweeted to say: “I strongly condemn the racist remarks made to Pierre Webo, member of the Basaksehir technical staff, and am convinced UEFA will take the necessary measures.”
Meanwhile, the president of the Turkish champions said his side would not restart the game as long as the fourth official was still involved.
“The fourth official used the word ‘negro’ in front of everybody. If the fourth official is removed from the pitch, then we will restart,” Goksel Gümüsdag told Turkish television channel TRT Spor.
“If the fourth official remains on the pitch, then Basaksehir will not come back out.”
Basaksehir responded to the incidents by tweeting “NO TO RACISM #Respect” along with a photo of UEFA’s anti-racism logo. The message was retweeted by PSG.
The referee, Ovidiu Hategan, his two assistants and the fourth official are all from Romania.
UEFA rules stipulate that any team refusing to play must forfeit the game and also faces a fine of 250,000 Swiss francs (S$370,000), although it is unclear how such a rule could be applied in this case.
Despite the interruption of the match, being played behind closed doors because of the coronavirus pandemic, PSG qualified for the last 16 from Group H after RB Leipzig beat Manchester United 3-2 in Germany.