Micah Richards refused to accuse the Romanian fourth official Sebastian Coltescu of racism after the players from PSG and Istanbul Basaksehir walked off the pitch and forced their Champions League match to be suspended.
Coltescu referred to Basaksehir assistant Pierre Webo as “the black one” twice when directing the on-field referee towards the member of staff who had vehemently protested against a decision.
Coltescu used the word “negru”, meaning black in Romanian, and Webo reacted angrily, shouting: “Why did you say negro?”
An argument broke out on the touchline with all players and staff involved. Basaksehir then walked down the tunnel and were followed by PSG, forcing the game to be suspended. It will resume on Wednesday evening from the 14th minute, the moment the incident occurred, with a new set of officials.
Players on both sides have been roundly applauded for refusing to continue the game in the wake of what they viewed as a racist remark. But speaking on American channel CBS’s coverage of the Champions League soon after the incident happened, alongside presenter Kate Abdo and pundits Roberto Martinez and Jamie Carragher, the former Manchester City defender Richards said we should not rush to judge.
“Demba Ba was within his rights to say what he said,” Richards explained, referring to the Basaksehir striker’s accusations of racism towards the official. “I think that’s the whole problem in society, they were [the official was] trying to label people as different.
“But playing devil’s advocate, it’s difficult, because if we’re in a room like we are now, and someone says ‘the black person’ or ‘the black one’, I wouldn’t take offence to that, so without knowing the context the word was used, it’s easy to jump on either bandwagon.
“I think the players, for them not to come out and stand together, it might have been something more than that. But from the evidence we’ve seen there it’s very difficult for me to slate the fourth official because I don’t know the context in which it was used.
“In Romania… the word ‘negru’ means black. It’s difficult. The problem with is racism, when a racial moment happens, we don’t really deal with it, and then we have something that might have been or might not have been, it’s two different things. So we can’t assume that just because he said that he was being racist.
“Was he being ignorant? Probably. Racist? I’m not sure, and that’s just off the evidence I’ve been given.”
Uefa is investigating the incident.
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