John Barnes has come out in defence of the fourth official at the centre of an alleged race storm following Paris Saint Germain’s postponed Champions League game with Istanbul Basaksehir.
Players accused Romanian fourth official Sebastian Coltescu of racially abusing Basaksehir’s assistant coach in the early stages of the match, which prompted both sides to collectively decide to walk from the field.
The Group H encounter was suspended midway through the first half after Pierre Webo, Basaksehir’s black assistant manager, vehemently protested a decision on the touchline.
Football pundit John Barnes has come out in defence of the Champions League official
Barnes suggested on Twitter than the official was merely pointing out which coach he meant
As the referee came over, footage appeared to show Coltescu identifying Webo by saying: ‘The black one over there. Go and check who he is. The black one over there, it’s not possible to act like that’.
It is believed Coltescu said ‘negru’, the Romanian word for black.
On Wednesday former Liverpool star turned football pundit Barnes waded into social media to have his say on the matter.
Barnes made clear to his followers that he believed the official had made an honest mistake, and was only fulfilling his duties of passing information on to the referee.
Sebastian Coltescu (above) was accused of using the word ‘negru’ – Romanian for ‘black’ – to identify Istanbul Basaksehir coach Pierre Webo
Webo (right), Basaksehir’s assistant manager, was livid when he was allegedly identified as ‘the black one over there’ by the fourth official
Basaksehir substitute Demba Ba remonstrates with the referee Ovidiu Hategan, watched by PSG players Neymar and Kylian Mbappe who both supported the walk-off protest
When told by one user on Twitter that there are many ways to identify somebody without referring to their race, Barnes snapped back: ‘If they are the ONLY white person in a room or group… THEY ARE… how else would YOU describe the ONLY white person or BLACK person in a group?’
Furthering his point, Barnes went on to outline his belief that the official would have acted likewise had the coach he was trying to point out been white.
Barnes added: ‘[Demba] Ba said if he was white u wouldnt say white guy… but if there were 5 black coaches and 1 white coach .. he would have said “the white one”… what else could or should he say?’
It was then put to Barnes by another user that the official should have simply asked the name of the person he was talking about, but the football pundit again stuck to his guns.
Barnes said: ‘The ref doesnt know who to ask, the 4th official has to tell the ref which one to approach so he tells him to approach “the black one” .. then the ref may ask his name and send him off.. the 4th officials job is JUST to identify him.. not ask his name.’
Barnes continued to engage in discussion with football fans online, and also offered his view that he saw no issue with the language used if it was the correct wording when spoken in Romanian.
Barnes said: ‘And even if he said negro… if thats the romanian word for black… whats wrong with that?’
At the time of the incident in Paris, a furious Webo heard the officials remarks towards him and immediately accused Coltescu of racism. He had to be restrained by other members of the coaching staff as he was shown a straight red card.
Ex-Chelsea striker Demba Ba, a substitute for the Turkish side, charged in the direction of Coltescu to question why he had used the word to identify Webo.
Cameras picked up him saying: ‘You never say “this white guy”, you say “this guy”, so why when you’re mentioning him… listen to me… why when you mention a black guy, why do you say “this black guy”.’
Both sets of players left the pitch and returned to the dressing room in a united protest
Within minutes of the incident, Basaksehir posted a picture of UEFA’s ‘No To Racism’ campaign
Basaksehir players on the team coach back to their hotel. The match will now be concluded on Wednesday with a different set of officials in charge
Coltescu is a top-flight referee in Romania, but is reportedly officiating in his final European campaign after being demoted by FIFA.
Last night he apologised, saying: ‘Sorry for the misunderstanding. My intention was never racism.
‘In such an environment, people sometimes cannot express their feelings correctly and can be misunderstood. I apologise on behalf of the UEFA Champions League. I hope you understand.’
A UEFA statement later read: ‘Following an incident at tonight’s UEFA Champions League match between Paris Saint-Germain and Istanbul Basaksehir, 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 18:55CET. A thorough investigation on the incident that took place will be opened immediately.’