KEIR RADNEDGE REPORTING —- Paris Saint-Germain and Istanbul Basaksehir will try again tomorrow night to play out the Champions League abandoned after the fourth official was accused of a racist comment.
An explosive collapse of the Group H tie in the Parc des Princes after only 14 minutes can only be a major embarrassment for UEFA whose president Aleksander Ceferin regularly proclaims the European governing body’s “zero tolerance” approach to discrimination.
The last upset UEFA needed was for one of its own highly-rated international officials – in this case Romanian Sebastian Coltescu – to be accused of breaching its rules, regulations, strictures and anti-discriminatory strategy.
However there may be more angles to the bust-up than at first appeared.
Istanbul alleged that Coltescu used a racist term towards their assistant coach Pierre Webo in a 14th-minute touchline exchange which saw the Cameroonian shown a red card. The score was 0-0 at the time.
The match took place against a tense political backdrop with sharp words having been exchanged between French President Emmanuel Macron and Turkey’s leader Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
The flashpoint was a 13th minute foul by PSG’s Presnal Kimpembe on Basaksehir’s Norwegian forward Fredrik Gulbrandsen. The Turkish bench protested, already upset at seeing two of their players booked.
Referee Ovidiu Hategan, alerted by his assistants, ran to the touchline to discipline a member of the Istanbul coaching staff. He asked Coltescu to point out the guilty party and Coltescu replied: “Ala negru” [‘black’ in Romanian]. Webo, the target, shouted back several times: “Why did you say ‘negro’? as he tried to confront the fourth official.
Substitute Demba Ba, the former Newcastle and Chelsea striker, joined in leading the protests at the official’s choice of language before all Basaksehir’s players walked off the pitch and down the tunnel in protest.
PSG’s Kylian Mbappé, supported by Neymar, told Hategan that the French club’s players did not want to continue while the fourth referee continued to be involved.
They duly followed the Basaksehir players off the pitch in a dramatic gesture of support.
Basaksehir stated later, via Twitter: “Our players have taken a decision not to go back on the pitch after our assistant coach, Pierre Webo has been exposed to racist behaviour by the fourth official.”
UEFA sought to mediate, proposing to restart the game with a new fourth official but the Istanbul players were still angry and eventually the match was abandoned and a Wednesday restart agreed.
The governing body said: “Following an incident at tonight’s UEFA Champions League match between Paris Saint-Germain FC and Istanbul Basaksehir FK, UEFA has – after discussion with both clubs – decided on an exceptional basis to have the remaining minutes of the match played tomorrow with a new team of match officials.
“The kick-off has been set at 18:55 CET (5.55pm UK time).”
The outcome still has a bearing on the final positions in the group.
RB Leipzig beat Manchester United to book their place in the next round with PSG also now going through. The French champions will go through as group winners if they win the tie.