Wednesday, December 09, 2020

A racism incident in the Champions League

 I was enjoying the Leipzig-Manchester United match when I heard that the Champions League match between Paris St. Germain and Istambul Basaksehir was suspended due to an incident where the 4th referee, Romanian Sebastian Colestcu, had racially abused a player. Due to this, both teams had walked off the pitch. It was indeed a curious incident that I don't think has ever happened in top flight football.

Firstly, it is admirable that both teams, together, decide to stand up against the scourge of racism that still haunts football, and society at large for that matter. However, at the same time one has to be careful about not seeing the ghost of racism in every instance, and specially in those situations where language and culture enter the equation. A case in point for me is the incident where Luis Suarez was sentenced for being a racist in the Premier League: Luis Suarez may be a lot of negative things, but I still do not think he is a racist; the whole thing was a language dispute blown out of proportions. That said, Luis Suarez should have been wiser (but is that to be expected...?), and giving him the benefit of the doubt, I would say the same about Mr. Coltescu: he acted without thinking in an incident where he used a Romanian expression that can easily be misinterpreted. I therefore tend to agree with Mr. John Barnes about the Romanian's intentions, but at the same time I think that Mr. Coltescu should be banned from ever officiating international matches as he will always be tarnished, and that is something that must not happen in football.

Not enough is done to fight racism, xenophobia and misogyny in football. That is certain. 

However, we must also be careful that we do not denigrate this important fight by accusing someone of racism when it may be a possible misunderstanding or simply ignorance. Better  instead to engage in a dialogue: "you know that what you said can be hurtful?"; "No I did not; it is common usage in my language", etc.

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