A Champions League soccer match between Paris St.-Germain and Istanbul Basaksehir was suspended on Tuesday after the Turkish club’s coaching staff and players accused a match official of directing a racial slur at a Black assistant coach.
The game — a crucial fixture in European soccer’s showpiece competition — was interrupted after just 14 minutes when Sebastian Coltescu, the Romanian fourth official, summoned the referee, Ovidiu Hategan, to the sideline. It was not immediately clear what had prompted the request.
As Hategan approached the team benches, Coltescu appeared to ask that Pierre Webó, the former Cameroon international now working as the Turkish team’s assistant manager, be ejected from the match. Reports in Romania, and audio of the incident, suggested he communicated to Hategan that a member of the Basaksehir coaching staff — Webó — should be dismissed, and pointed him out as “that Black one.”
As Hategan prepared to produce a red card from his pocket, Webó approached the referee and accused Coltescu of using a racial epithet in singling him out.
“Why did he say negro?” Webó shouted repeatedly in the direction of Coltescu as he was sent away from the field. “Why did you say negro?”
Basaksehir’s players immediately protested to Hategan. Demba Ba, the team’s veteran Senegalese striker, then approached Coltescu and asked him, “Why when you mention a Black guy, you have to say, ‘This Black guy’?”
“You wouldn’t say these white guys,” Ba said, pointing his finger. “You’d say these guys.”
Coltescu, whose role as the fourth official involves policing the bench areas and handling players substitutions, appeared to defend himself by saying it was an issue of language, not intent.
After several minutes of discussion, Basaksehir’s players decided to leave the field, swiftly followed by their counterparts from P.S.G. As he left the field, Hategan could be overheard on the television broadcast’s microphones insisting that the protocol for dealing with the issue — and whether the game would be restarted — was “not up to me.”
UEFA, European soccer’s governing body and the competition’s organizer, initially planned for the game to resume at 10 p.m. local time, after a delay of 45 minutes, with Coltescu replaced by the official serving as the on-site video assistant referee.
P.S.G.’s players were reported to be willing to continue playing — even returning to the tunnel to make their way to the field — but several members of the Basaksehir squad were not prepared to do so, with some reports suggesting they objected to Coltescu being allowed to continue taking part in the match as the video referee.