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Why players' effort not enough in racism fight

FOOTBALL By Associated Press | December 10th 2020
An anti racism banner seen on the empty stands inside the stadium ahead the Champions League group H soccer match between Paris Saint Germain and Istanbul Basaksehir at the Parc des Princes stadium in Paris, France, Wednesday, Dec. 9, 2020. [AP Photo/Francois Mori]

Players have taken a knee, unfurled slogans and demanded tougher action only to find football — their working environment — remains infected with racism.

The tipping point might just have come, with elite players in Paris taking the extraordinary step of refusing to continue playing.

At the end of a year of striking gestures against racial injustice and discrimination, the Champions League produced one of football's most powerful shows of solidarity against racism on Tuesday when players from Paris Saint-Germain and Istanbul Basaksehir left the field and didn't return.

“The walk off by both Basaksehir and PSG together lays down a marker in Europe," Piara Powar, executive director of the anti-discrimination Fare network told The Associated Press. "Many players are fed up with half measures to tackle racism and are more prepared than ever to exercise their right to stop a match.”

The flashpoint came 14 minutes into the game when the fourth official — Sebastian Coltescu of Romania — was accused of using a racial term to identify Basaksehir assistant coach Pierre Webo before sending him off for his conduct on the sidelines. Webo is Black.

"You are racist,” Basaksehir coach Okan Buruk said to Coltescu.

PSG and Istanbul Basaksehir players before they walked off the pitch. [AP]

An enraged Webo demanded an explanation from Coltescu, repeating at least six times: “Why you say negro?”

“Why when you mention a Black guy, you have to say ‘This Black guy?’” asked Basaksehir substitute Demba Ba, who is Black.

The Fare network helps Uefa prosecute discriminatory acts like Tuesday’s incident at the Parc des Princes.

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