Walking off pitch to protest racism is milestone, says Webo
Walking off the pitch during a EUFA Champions League game between Turkey’s Medipol Başakşehir and France’s Paris Saint-Germain (PSG) on Dec. 8 as a protest against the racist remark by one of the referees was a “milestone,” said Pierre Webo, Başakşehir’s assistant manager.
Webo, a Cameroonian national, complained during the game that fourth official Sebastian Coltescu had used a racial slur to identify him. In the aftermath of the event, Başakşehir and Paris Saint-Germain (PSG) players walked off the pitch.
“That day, Dec. 8, marked a milestone. Things were totally different a day before Dec. 8 and a day after,” Webo told daily Hürriyet.
“Why are we here today talking? Because we decided to walk off the pitch. That was how we made our voice heard. Things like this will continue as long as you stay on the pitch,” Webo said.
He noted that racism-related problems could occur between players and with fans, but what surprised him that it came from a referee.
In the 17th minute of the match at Parc des Princes, Webo argued with fourth official Sebastian Coltescu about a position.
But the fourth official warned the referee to send him off. Webo claimed that he faced a racist remark from Coltescu.
“Using a discriminatory language is also racism [referring to the referee’s remark]. Discrimination is racism. What he did was unacceptable,” Webo said.
He noted that his teammates discussed how to react, and they also had a teleconference in the locker room with the club’s chairman, Göksel Gümüşdağ, who backed their decision to walk off the game.
According to Webo, PSG players Neymar, Mbappe and Kimpemb also showed solidarity. “Their support was very important. The players are the key actors in this game. When they united things got better.”
Webo recalled the EUFA League game between Turkey’s Sivasspor and Israel’s Maccabi Tel Aviv on Dec. 10.
“What happened there? Sivasspor players kneeled down and raised their fists [to protest the incident at the Başakşehir-PSG match] but Maccabi Tel Aviv players waited standing. It means nothing if you do not unite. If PSG had not walked off the pitch, Başakşehir would have been sanctioned with a forfeit with a 0-3 loss,” he said.
In the wake of the incident the game was then postponed to Dec. 9 by UEFA and Webo’s red card was rescinded.
UEFA assigned a new team of match officials so that the game could resume.
Webo called on international authorities to take firm actions against racism in football.
“UEFA and FIFA are launching campaigns, such as ‘No to racism,’ to raise awareness with TV ads. But they do not act. Football is a business, and everybody is looking after their interest. They supported us, but obviously, they wanted us back on the pitch. I hope UEFA employs more effective sanctions,” Webo said.