PARIS • Paris Saint-Germain and Istanbul Basaksehir played their Champions League Group H game to a conclusion on Wednesday, 24 hours after it had been suspended.
The game – which restarted where it had stopped the previous day in the 14th minute – was largely academic, as the French treble winners had qualified for the last 16 after RB Leipzig beat Manchester United the previous day.
But after scoring a hat-trick as PSG thrashed the Turkish champions 5-1 to finish as Group H winners, Brazilian star Neymar said the walkout was about making a stand against racism.
The clash was abandoned following a touchline argument over accusations that the Romanian fourth official, Sebastian Coltescu, had described Istanbul’s assistant coach Pierre Webo as black, or “negru” in Romanian.
“Sometimes, in extreme circumstances, these things need to be done to see if the world can change a little,” said Neymar, who together with other players from both sides and the new team of officials gathered around the centre circle and took a knee before the kick-off – in support of the Black Lives Matter movement.
Coltescu and the other Romanian match officials were replaced by a new refereeing team headed by Dutchman Danny Makkelie.
Players also 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.
“What happened was unacceptable. In the times we live in, we cannot accept differences being made like that about colour or race,” Neymar, whose strike partner Kylian Mbappe scored the other two goals, told French broadcaster RMC Sport.
“It has no place in football, or in life, or in any sport, so our attitude was perfect.”
Debutants Basaksehir had already been eliminated from the Champions League, but they left their mark on the competition with their response to the treatment of Cameroonian Webo, who was sent off as he reacted furiously to the alleged comment.
Sometimes, in extreme circumstances, these things need to be done to see if the world can change a little.
That red card has been suspended by Uefa pending a probe, with European football’s governing body promising a “thorough investigation”.
“The fourth official used an unacceptable word to Pierre Achille Webo. The referee should have dealt with the situation properly but didn’t. We had to show that we were with Webo,” said Basaksehir coach Okan Buruk.
“Webo was upset. We all gave him our support, but it’s someone else who should feel bad and that is the person who used the words. He is the guilty one.
“We have to show that we can all live together. Humanity is the most important thing.”