John Barnes has defended the Romanian official at the centre of an alleged racial incident that sparked Champions League walkout.
Paris Saint Germain’s Champions League game with Istanbul Basaksehir was postponed after 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. See video here
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.
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.
This led to a debate offline and online as people argued over whether the Romanian official was racist or not in the way he referred to Webo..
On Wednesday, Dec 9, former Liverpool star turned football pundit John Barnes – a Black man – waded into social media to react to the matter.
Barnes said that he believed the official had made an honest mistake and was only fulfilling his duties of passing information on to the referee.
When told by a Twitter user 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?”
Barnes went on to outline his belief that the official would have acted the same way had the coach he was trying to point out been the only white one there.
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?”
Another Twitter user told Barnes that the official should have simply asked for 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.”
Reacting to concerns that the word “negru” used is degrading, Barnes said 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?”