Paris Saint-Germain star Neymar defended the decision of his team and Istanbul Basaksehir to walk off the pitch in this week’s Champions League match following alleged racist remarks by an official, as the world’s most expensive player stated racism “has no place in football or in life”.
“What happened was unacceptable. In the times we live in we cannot accept differences being made like that about colour or race,” Neymar told French broadcaster RMC Sport after scoring a hat-trick when the game was restarted on Wednesday, with PSG winning 5-1.
“It has no place in football, or in life, or in any sport, so our attitude was perfect.”
The match in Paris was halted in the 14th minute on Tuesday as a row erupted amid accusations the Romanian fourth official had used a racist term to describe Basaksehir’s Cameroonian assistant coach, Pierre Webo.
With Basaksehir refusing to come back out unless the official was removed, the game was played to a finish 24 hours later with a new refereeing team.
Meanwhile, European football’s governing body UEFA has opened an investigation into the unprecedented incidents.
“Sometimes in extreme circumstances these things need to be done to see if the world can change a little,” said Neymar, who together with other players took a knee before the restart on Wednesday in support of the Black Lives Matter movement.
‘The fault of one person’
PSG had already qualified for the last 16 before the restart, but they needed to beat Basaksehir to finish top of their group and Kylian Mbappe scored their other two goals in a one-sided game.
Neymar added: “Yesterday I wasn’t very happy because we had prepared ourselves for the game, and so to go back home, then get the body warmed up again for the next day, is very hard, but we all accepted it. We all decided to do it together.”
Meanwhile, Basaksehir coach Okan Buruk accused the Romanian referee, Ovidiu Hategan, of failing to properly manage the situation after the alleged comments made by the fourth official, Sebastian Coltescu.
“The fourth official used an unacceptable word to Pierre Achille Webo. The referee should have dealt with the situation properly but didn’t. We had to show that we were with Webo,” Buruk said.
“The players decided to stop. Some of them didn’t want to come back out. We are a team and we had to stick together.”
He added: “UEFA did the right thing by making it possible to play the next day.
“Webo was upset. We all gave him our support, but it’s someone else who should feel bad and that is the person who used the words. He is the guilty one.
“We have to show that we can all live together. Humanity is the most important thing.”
The incident drew a reaction from Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who is understood to have close links to the Turkish champions.
However, Buruk played down suggestions that the row could spill over into a diplomatic issue.
“There are no problems between Turkey and Romania. It is the fault of one person, not an entire country,” he said.