A day after walking off the field in protest, players from Paris Saint-Germain and Istanbul Basaksehir returned to the Parc des Princes and knelt together with match officials in a display of unity against racism.
When their Champions League game resumed, Neymar put on the kind of display that would normally dominate the headlines, scoring a hat trick as PSG easily secured top spot in its group by routing Basaksehir 5-1 on Wednesday.
But the result was of secondary importance in this game, especially with PSG already assured of advancing to the knockout stages. On Tuesday, the players walked off the field in protest after fourth official Sebastian Coltescu of Romania allegedly used a racial term when identifying Pierre Webo, a Black assistant coach with Basaksehir.
“Nothing beats actions. We’re tired of this, we never want to experience this again,” PSG striker Kylian Mbappe told broadcaster Telefoot. "We weren’t disappointed about not playing (on Tuesday), we were proud of it. Because if you let this kind of thing happen then it becomes the norm.”
On Wednesday, players came back out to warm up wearing T-shirts with “No To Racism” written on them. They then gathered to kneel with the four officials, who had replaced those from Tuesday.
Neymar was among many players raising fists in the center circle and bowed his head pensively.
Match officials also wore the T-shirts, which featured the club logos of both sides.
There were two banners side by side in the stadium with a message against racism, written in English and French, and another supporting Webo, who also wore the T-shirt when he warmed up with the squad.
“There are many more important things than football, than sport,” PSG coach Thomas Tuchel said. “They made a very strong decision and showed solidarity toward their opponents. It was a very brave decision, in the dressing room it was really clear they wanted to do this.”
The game restarted with the clock at 13 minutes, 30 seconds with a free kick for Basaksehir. That was the moment when play was suspended with the score at 0-0.
Once play resumed, Basaksehir simply had no answer for Neymar.
For the opening goal, he turned and placed the ball through a defender's legs before curling the ball in from the edge of the penalty area in the 21st minute.
His next came in the 38th from Kylian Mbappe's pass and and then passed up his first chance at a hat trick by letting Mbappe take a 42nd minute penalty to end his long goal drought.
Five minutes after the break, Neymar swapped passes with Angel Di Maria and curled the ball in again from 20 meters for his third.
“It was a very complete performance,” Tuchel said. “When Neymar's in form he’s the main man, he was excellent today. He’s really gaining in confidence.”
Mbappe added the fifth midway through the second half, after Mehmet Topal had bundled in a consolation goal. Mbappe had not scored in nine previous Champions League games dating back to November last year, but became the youngest to reach 20 goals at 21 years, 355 days.
The game had drawn worldwide attention on Wednesday after the players on became enraged at thelanguage used by Coltescu when identifying Webo to referee Ovidiu Hategan, who had asked which assistant coach should be sent off.
Basaksehir coach Okan Buruk said “you are racist” to Coltescu, asking him to leave the field, while PSG striker Kylian Mbappe was heard saying he did not want to play unless Coltescu left.
New footage from broadcaster RMC on Wednesday shows Coltescu explaining to PSG's sporting director Leonardo why he used the Romanian word “negru” — which means black — to describe Webo.
Television footage captured an exchange in which Hategan was told by Coltescu that Webo should be reprimanded for his behavior on the sidelines following a heavy foul on one his team's players.
“Go and give it (the red card) to the Black one, this is not possible (tolerable), go and identify him, go verify, the Black one over there,” Coltescu said, in Romanian, about Webo.
Webo was heard to repeat at least six times “Why you say negro?” as he sought an explanation from Coltescu and had to be restrained by another member of Basaksehir’s staff.
Basaksehir striker Demba Ba twice asked “Why is the fourth official saying ‘negro?’” while Mbappe continued to ask the referee for an explanation.
The use of the word prompted much debate as to its usage in Romania. But French Minister of Sports Roxana Maracineanu, of Romanian origin, said the main point was that a person should never be identified in this way.
“Pointing at a person someone via (skin) color, that is unacceptable and inexcusable,” she said on French radio.
UEFA is launching an investigation.
The French soccer league, meanwhile, announced that players will be asked to gather around a slogan reading “Let's continue to gain ground against racism” before matches in the first and second division this weekend.
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