Duvar English - Reuters
President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has used a Romanian referee's racist remarks hurled during a game between Paris St Germain and Istanbul Başakşehir as an excuse to target France.
Başakşehir's players, closely followed by their opponents Paris St Germain, walked off the pitch during a Champions League soccer game on Dec. 8 after the Turkish club accused a match official of racism.
Erdoğan on Dec. 9 surprisingly made the incident a part of his row with France.
"This incident is a result of France's recent racist discourse," Erdoğan said in a press conference.
"France has unfortunately become a place that racism is centered in," he added.
Turkey and France have been at odds over a number of issues, with France leading the European Union push for sanctions.
French President Emmanuel Macron called on Dec. 4 for respect after Erdoğan described him as a burden on France.
Macron also told news website Brut that Erdogan was limiting freedoms for Turkish people.
'Racism has no place in football'
During the game on Dec. 8, Başakşehir's assistant coach Pierre Webo was shown a red card for protesting against a refereeing decision and the Turkish side then alleged that the fourth official Sebastian Coltescu used a racist term towards the Cameroonian.
The players from both teams left the field after about 10 minutes of discussions with Romanian referee Ovidiu Hategan.
"A complaint from the Başakşehir bench after racist remarks by the fourth official was followed by a coming-together of all 22 players pitch-side," PSG said in a statement.
"After 10 minutes of explanation, the referee invited both teams to return to their respective changing rooms."
European soccer's governing body UEFA, which announced that it will launch an investigation, said in a statement: "Following an alleged incident involving the 4th official, the match was temporarily suspended."
Başakşehir added on Twitter: "Our players have taken a decision NOT TO go back on the pitch after our Assistant Coach Pierre Webo has been exposed to racist behavior by the 4th Official."
ℹ Paris Saint Germain maçında 4. hakem Sebastian Coltescu’nun yardımcı antrenörümüz Pierre Webo’ya yapmış olduğu ırkçılık nedeniyle futbolcularımız sahaya çıkmama kararı almıştır.— İstanbul Başakşehir (@ibfk2014) December 8, 2020
Kamuoyunun bilgilerine sunarız. #NoToRacism
The game, which was suspended in the 13th minute, did not resume and UEFA said the rest of the match at the Parc des Princes would be played on Dec. 9 at 1755 GMT.
"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," it said.
TV footage showed fourth official Coltescu saying in Romanian: "The black one over there. Go and check who he is. The black one over there, it's not possible to act like that" after Webo vehemently protested against a refereeing decision.
"Why he say negro?", Başakşehir substitute Demba Ba repeatedly asked match referee Hategan as confusion reigned on the touchline in the Group H match.
TV footage also showed PSG's French defender Presnel Kimpembe saying "Is he serious? We are heading in. We're heading in. That's it, we're heading in."
La rencontre opposant le @PSG_inside à @ibfk2014 ce mardi soir a été interrompue après 13 minutes de jeu suite à des propos racistes de la part du 4e arbitre envers un membre du staff du club de Basaksehir.— Paris Saint-Germain (@PSG_inside) December 8, 2020
Le match se rejouera mercredi à 18h55. 📅#PSGIBFK
UEFA said it will be conducting a "thorough investigation".
"Racism, and discrimination in all its forms, has no place within football," the governing body said in a statement
UEFA is aware of an incident during tonight’s Champions League match between Paris Saint-Germain and Istanbul Basaksehir and will be conducting a thorough investigation.— UEFA (@UEFA) December 8, 2020
Racism, and discrimination in all its forms, has no place within football.
Erdoğan said on Twitter he believed UEFA would take the necessary steps.
"We are unconditionally against racism and discrimination in sports and in all areas of life," he wrote.
Başakşehir posted UEFA's 'No to Racism' banner on Twitter, which was retweeted by PSG on their own official account.
The French champions added in their statement: "All forms of racism go against the values held by Paris Saint-Germain and the club’s Chairman, staff and players.
"For more than 15 years PSG has led the fight against discrimination and continues to work to eradicate it in all forms."
PSG qualified for the last 16 of Europe's leading club competition, despite the match being suspended and then rescheduled, after Manchester United lost 3-2 at Leipzig.