A day after they left the court at an act of protest, players from Paris Saint-Germain and Basaksehir in Istanbul returned to parc des Princes and swelled up with referees in a show of unity against racism.
On Wednesday, when the Champions League match resumed, Neymar exhibited the class that in other circumstances had grabbed the headlines, signing a treed on PSG’s lead by 5–1 to Basaksehir.
But the result was somewhat secondary, especially as the PSG had already secured to advance to the eighth round. On Tuesday, players left the pitch in an unprecedented act of solidarity at the tournament, as the fourth referee, Romanian Sebastian Coltescu, allegedly produced a racist term to identify Pierre Webó, a member of Basaksehir’s technical staff, and black.
“Nothing beats the acts. We’re tired of this. We never want to experience this again,” PSG striker Kylian Mbappé said, in statements to telefoot. “We weren’t disappointed not to play on Tuesday, but we were proud, because if you let this kind of thing happen, it will become the norm.”
On resumption, players took to the field to warm up wearing T-shirts with the legend “No to Racism”. They then teamed up to join the four members of the arbitration group, replacing those who worked on Tuesday.
Neymar was among the players who raised their fists in the center circle and bowed his head thoughtfully.
The referees also carried the jerseys, with the logos of both teams on both sides.
Banners were deployed at the stadium with anti-racism messages, written in English and French, and another in support of Webó, who also wore a shirt when warming up with the team.
“There are much more important things than football and sport,” said Thomas Tuchel, a PSG technician. “They made a firm decision and showed solidarity with their opponents. It was a very brave decision. In the locker room, it was really clear that they wanted to do this.”
The match was restarted with the clock marking 13 minutes with 30 seconds, and the Basaksehir for collecting a free kick. That was the moment the match with the score 0-0 was suspended after the players left the court.
Once the match resumed, Basaksehir had no answer for Neymar.
On the first goal, the Brazilian star turned around and fired, made the pipe to an opponent and defined combado from the edge of the area at 21 minutes.
His second target reached 38, thanks to a pass from Mbappé. Five minutes after the break, Neymar threw a wall with the Argentine Angel di María and again prodigated a comba about 20 meters from the arch.
“It was a very complete performance,” Tuchel said. “When Neymar is fit, he is the main man. It was excellent today. He’s really gaining confidence.”