Sebastian Coltescu (43) will not face charges of racism following the incidents at the PSG vs Basaksehir game on 8 December, UEFA’s inquiry revealed.
Two months after the game in Paris was abandoned, Coltescu got the verdict from European football’s governing body. He is still under investigation for misconduct.
On the recordings that have been circulated by media around the world and which I fully decrypted here, you can hear assistant referee Octavian Sovre asking the game’s official, Ovidiu Hategan, to sanction Webo for his behavior. Sovre and Hategan were talking in Romanian, with the first referring to Webo as ‘ala negru’, translated as ‘the black one’. Coltescu, the game’s fourth official, only confirmed to Hategan that it was Webo whom he should sanction. Coltescu used the sale identification as Sovre and was heard by Basaksehir striker Senegalese striker Demba Ba, who informed Webo of the improper addressing.
I can now publish the conclusions reached in UEFA’s report on Coltescu and the motivations behind the decision not formally accuse him of racism.
“From the video and audio evidence available, we concluded that Mr. Sovre and Mr. Coltescu used the phrases “ala negru” (translated as ‘the black one’) and “negrul ala” (‘that black one’) which in English are translated as ‘the black one’, to identify Basaksehir’s assistant manager Pierre Webo. According to our language report, “negrul ala” and “ala negru” don’t have negative or pejorative or negative connotations. The most relevant English dictionaries claim that the word “black” used as an adjective, as we concluded from the Romanian translation, is not offensive. The word is also used by anti-racist organizations, as well as millions of those who are fighting racism.
“Negrul ala” and “ala negru”, even though both can be regarded as controversial given the context they were used in and the fact that they have a similar pronunciation as the pejorative “negro” in English, can’t be perceived as discriminatory or racist. As a consequence, the referees’ conduct can’t be sanctionable.
Mr. Okan Buruk’s can’t be considered discriminatory either because it’s an opinion or a suggestion towards the fourth official that certain terms could be avoided in certain contexts. There will be no charges towards Mr. Buruk.
Considering all of the above, the disciplinary and ethics inspector, in this case, believes that the investigation regarding the possible racist and discriminatory language used by Sovre, Coltescu, and Buruk has finished. No action will be taken against them based on these findings“.
Josep Vandellos, the lawyer who represented Coltescu in the UEFA hearings, explains his strategy in this certain case: “They asked for a language report to see if the words used had racist connotations or not. We had this report done and it concluded it’s not a matter of racism. The report is very well done, it leaves no question marks. Coltescu was asked all sorts of questions. He was asked if he could have used different words, why he used those words, and all that.
Sebastian would have wanted to avoid all the situation that was created around that game. If Mr. Webo would have had a red hat, Coltescu would have probably indicated that instead. Mr. Webo was the only person of color from Basaksehir’s staff. We are talking about a Champions League game, the pressure was high, you can’t waste any minute, so the fastest way to identify him was the one Sebastian used. He could have used another identification, of course, but he chose that one.” (Telekom Sport Romania)
Sebastian Coltescu came back to action in the Romanian league in January, after being kept away by the Romanian Refs’ Committee (CCA) for over a month. CCA decided to withdraw him from the FIFA list of international referees at the end of this season. The decision was confirmed before the incidents in Paris, so the events at Parc des Princes didn’t have any influence on it.
The game in Paris on 8 December was abandoned following the refusal of the players to continue playing if Coltescu is not replaced as the fourth ref with immediate efect. The match resumed the following day with a new group of refs in charge. PSG won the game 5-1. UEFA also canceled the red card shown to Pierre Webo for insulting the refs.