Racism scandal in the Champions League

An incident occurred during the match between Paris St. Germain and Istanbul Başakşehir on Tuesday. After Istanbul's assistant manager Pierre Webó was shown a red card, a referee from Romania used the term "negru" to refer to Webó, who is from Cameroon, while talking to a fellow Romanian. Both teams left the pitch in protest, and the match was postponed to the next day. What does the incident reveal?

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Libertatea (RO) /

The scandal emerged because of the silence

Romania only has itself to blame for the scandal, Libertatea surmises:

“The referee has given us what the national team never could: global attention, we are the front-page story in the international mass media, from CNN to L’Équipe. ... We fully deserve the notoriety the Romanian referee has acquired for his racism. For years we've swept the problems with Romanian football and our referees under the carpet. Now in the pandemic, when the stands are empty, you can hear a pin drop in the stadium. Our referee probably forgot that. If there had been the usual racket in the stands, no one would have noticed.”

Adevărul (RO) /

A misunderstanding

Journalist Liviu Avram argues that this was not a racist incident in Adevărul:

“In both English and French, the word 'black' has at least two meanings: a neutral and a pejorative, insulting, racist one. For the French, 'noir' is neutral and 'nègre' is pejorative. For the English, 'black' is neutral and 'nigger' is offensive. Sebastian Colţescu's bad luck is that in Romanian, which is the language he was speaking in that moment with his colleague, the neutral word 'negru' is the equivalent of 'noir' and 'black'. It just sounds pejorative. ... Romanian has other words with the pejorative meaning. ... Sebastian Colţescu used none of them.”

Die Presse (AT) /

Historic solidarity

Die Presse welcomes the footballers' reaction:

“The word may simply mean 'black' in his national language. Also, in the spirit of the presumption of innocence, the naive version of an 'unintentional slip of the tongue' can be heard. But racism remains - and Uefa, which remained silent for hours about the scandal on that evening, would be well advised never to employ the referee again. ... On the other hand, the gesture made by both clubs was notable. Finally. All players walked off the pitch in an important game. Together, without any further discussion - in historic solidarity. That is the true response that footballers should give. Now the associations, industry and supporters will have to follow suit with all severity.”

So Foot (FR) /

A strong statement

Finally we're seeing a truly credible gesture against racism, So Foot writes approvingly:

“More than knees on the grass, family photos behind banners, armbands around biceps, video clips broadcast during the half-time break and half-hearted statements on social networks, deep-rooted racism has now provoked a truly strong reaction. Returning to the changing rooms showed that denouncing racism and no longer dismissing it as a trifling matter is more important than continuing the match, regardless of sporting or economic interests. A strong statement, a clear message, finally affirming that racism has no place in football - or in society - and that as long as it's there we'll stop the game!”

Causeur (FR) /

Hypocritical moralists

The outraged reaction of AKP representatives to the incident does not sit well with the conservative website Causeur:

“Offended, dismayed, the Turkish club returned to the changing rooms as martyrs. A club that belongs to people close to Erdoğan's Islamist AK party, which rejects homosexuality and abortion and encourages women to do 'their job as mothers' with a veil over their heads - no half measures! A club with principles, one could say. The game is suspended. The Islamist, sexist and homophobic - please excuse the pleonasm - Turkish President denounced racism on Twitter that same evening. The next morning, his foreign minister spoke of a crime against humanity. Welcome to 2020. The moral of the story? This noble cause is in good hands.”