John Barnes has come out in defence of the fourth official at the centre of a 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 Pierre Webo in the early stages of the match – by using the word ‘negru’, meaning ‘black in Romanian, to identify him to the referee.
The Group H encounter was suspended midway through the first half after the furious argument that followed, and prompted both sides to collectively decide to walk from the field.
Today former Liverpool and England star Barnes took to social media to have his say on the matter. Barnes, who is now a pundit and a prominent commentator on racism and discrimination within society, repeatedly made clear to his followers that he believed the official did nothing wrong, and was only fulfilling his duties of passing information on to the referee.
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?’
Barnes was repeatedly challenged on his defence of Coltescu, but justified his stance each time.
Sebastian Coltescu (above) was accused of using the word ‘negru’ – Romanian for ‘black’ – to identify Istanbul Basaksehir coach Pierre Webo
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
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.’
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.
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
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 official’s 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 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.’
‘Anyone who knows me knows I’m not a racist!’: Fourth official at the centre of racism accusations that saw PSG and Istanbul Basaksehir walk off the pitch speaks out for the first time since the incident – as he faces a TEN-MATCH ban
The fourth official accused of using racist language towards Istanbul Basaksehir’s assistant coach, sparking a player walk-off, has insisted that ‘anyone who knows me knows I’m not racist’ as he spoke for the first time since the game was suspended.
Romanian Sebastian Coltescu, the fourth official in question, is reported to have said ‘ala negru’ — translating into English as ‘the black guy’ — when asked by referee Ovidiu Hategan which coach needed to be sent off following a touchline incident.
But in a conversation with relatives, which emerged on Wednesday morning in Romanian media, Coltescu has defended his character.
‘I just try to be good,’ he said, according to Romanian outlet ProSport. ‘I’m not going to read any news sites these next few days. Anyone who knows me knows that I’m not racist! At least that’s what I hope.’
A UEFA investigation has been launched following the postponement of the match at the Parc des Princes as both sets of players refused to continue midway through the first half.
UEFA said: ‘In accordance with the Article 31(4) of the UEFA Disciplinary Regulations, an Ethics and Disciplinary Inspector has been appointed today to conduct a disciplinary investigation regarding the incident.’
While there is little to no precedent of an official being handed a 10-match ban, UEFA said in a statement that ‘a thorough investigation will be opened immediately’ and that Coltescu does face the prospect of a minimum 10-game ban if found guilty of using racist language on the touchline.
Article 3 of UEFA’s disciplinary rules cites both match officials and players — which means they can be punished by the governing body for offences.
Article 14 of UEFA’s code would be used to exact punishment onto the official if he is deemed guilty following the ongoing investigation.
That article states: ‘Any person under the scope of Article 3 who insults the human dignity of a person or group of persons on whatever grounds, including skin colour, race, religion, ethnic origin, gender or sexual orientation, incurs a suspension lasting at least 10 matches or a specified period of time, or any other appropriate sanction.’
Coltescu’s alleged remark is said to have been used to refer to Basaksehir assistant coach Pierre Webo.
Webo was shown a red card by referee Hategan before coaches and players from both sides had to be restrained from remonstrating with the fourth official.
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.
A furious Webo heard this 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.
But according to French outlet RMC Sport, Webo’s red card has been suspended by UEFA and he can be on the touchline on Wednesday for the rearranged fixture should he wish to be.