The latest edition of Paris Saint-Germain vs Marseille will go down in the history books for all the wrong reasons.
Before kick-off at the Parc des Princes, European football fans were hoping for one of the most exciting clashes of the 2020/21 season, which is only two game-weeks deep in France.
Reigning champions PSG were actually entering the game on the back of a shock 1-0 defeat at Lens, while Marseille arrived with three points in their back-pocket after overcoming Brest.
Nevertheless, PSG were buoyed by the returns of Angel Di Maria and Neymar who rejoined the squad after testing positive for COVID-19 towards the beginning of September.
The Champions League finalists were also without star man Kylian Mbappe who, like his superstar teammates, returned from his time away having contracted the virus.
However, Mbappe might have counted himself lucky that he wasn’t on the pitch during the latest instalment of Le Classique with the game set to go down in modern footballing infamy.
The match culminated in Neymar accusing Marseille’s Alvaro Gonzalez of racism, going as far as claiming on Twitter that he had been called a ‘monkey son of a b****’ during the defeat.
But in the hours since the game, Gonzalez has sought to address the accusations head on and he has done so with an unequivocal denial on his personal Twitter account.
Gonzalez uploaded a photo of himself with exclusively non-white teammates and proclaimed that ‘there is no place for racism’ and that ‘sometimes you have to learn to lose and take it on the field’.
If you feel as though you have become lost in all the events of Friday night’s game, then fear not, because you can read our full round-up down here:
It speaks volumes that the actual events of the match have become so easily forgotten and it’s perhaps most remarkable that Marseille’s performance in capital wasn’t all that impressive.
Despite fast approaching his 40th birthday, it was Steve Mandanda who was the hero for much of the night, making some crucial saves to ensure PSG drew a blank for a second consecutive game.
And luckily for the French ‘keeper, his acrobatics weren’t in vein as former Newcastle United flop Florian Thauvin popped up with a first-half winner, converting with his left foot at the back post.
However, the first-half wasn’t without controversy and it was after an incident involving Di Maria and Gonzalez that the accusations of racism started to bud.
Di Maria was originally accused of having spat at his Marseille opponent, though he was later found innocent by VAR, but the situation seemed to escalate with Neymar was heard saying ‘racismo no’.
Videos showed the Brazilian indicated that racist language, presumably from Gonzalez, had been uttered during the exchange – and this would later reemerge during the stoppage-time fracas.
It is, of course, well publicised that no less than five players were dismissed in injury time with Neymar joining Layvin Kurzawa, Leandro Paredes, Neymar, Jordan Amavi and Darío Benedetto.
Benedetto started the brawl with a nudge on Paredes, but it was the reaction of the PSG man that saw a brief exchange turn into an all-out fracas as he proceeded to tackle his rival to the ground.
From that point onwards, it’s anybody’s guess as to what happened with seemingly tens of individual disagreements unfolding before the referee brandish almost a half-dozen reds.
However, the most clearcut incident within the wider tangle undoubtedly surrounded Neymar, who received the final red card for having landed a rabbit punch on Gonzalez with his left fist.
The former Barcelona player was then heard on television microphones claiming that there had been a racist incident, first to the fourth official and then to the world via pitch-side cameras.
It looked for all intents and purposes that Neymar was referring to Gonzalez and Spanish TV even claimed that he said: « Because he was being a racist. That’s why I hit him. »
In the hours since the red-card-ladened fixture, Neymar has sought to shed extra light on the Twitter with a number of impassioned tweets believed to be directed at Gonzalez.
The Brazilian followed that up with a longer-form account of the episode, revealing the exact racist language he heard during the game, which is truly abhorrent in nature.
A rough translation of the tweet goes as follows: « VAR spotting my ‘attack’ is easy, Now I want to see it pick up the image of the racist calling me “MONO HIJO DE PUTA” (monkey motherfucker). That’s what I want to see. And then?
« I do a rainbow flick, you punish me .. For a slap, I get sent off … what about them? What then? »
Thomas Tuchel and Andre Villas-Boas have both expressed their stance against racism in the aftermath of the game and Gonzalez has, of course, issued his own response now.
It can only be assumed that the French football authorities will conduct a thorough investigation into the incident and it goes without saying that any racist actions should be severely punished.
But regardless of whether Gonzalez is guilty or not, there is no place for racism in either sport or society and it is more important than ever that individuals are proactive in quashing its heinous rhetoric.
Sport should always be a machination for human unity and therefore, there can be no place, not even a millimetre’s worth, in which pangs of division can echo.
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