Le Classique brawl allegedly sparked by racist incident

PSG’s Neymar reacts during the French League One soccer match between Paris Saint-Germain and Marseille at the Parc des Princes in Paris, France, Sunday, Sept.13, 2020. Photo by Michel Euler/AP Photo.

Le Classique took an ugly turn Sunday night when Paris-Saint Germain superstar Neymar Jr. accused Olympique de Marseille defender Álvaro Gonzalez of directing a racist comment toward him. Moreover, a separate incident in the dying stages of the match saw a total of five players sent off in Marseille’s 1-0 triumph at the Parc De Princes. 

It is worth noting that Gonzalez’s comment and the ensuing dispute allegedly occurred on the pitch. Therefore it is not only necessary, but crucial to give him the benefit of the doubt, in order to have a fair process and objective review of the incident.  

The ordeal began in the late stages of the first half, when PSG winger Ángel Di María appeared to spit in  Gonzalez’s face while running past him moments after a tackle had been committed on Di María.  

Gonzalez then pleaded with the head and fourth official to review the supposed act committed by the Argentine international on Video Assistant Referee (VAR). Neymar went up to Gonzalez and questioned his claim, with this confrontation in the 35th minute being the alleged moment Gonzalez calls him a “monkey motherf*****.” 

Neymar revealed on Twitter after the game that these were the exact words directed toward him. 

Approximately 15 seconds later, Neymar ranto the fourth official and pleaded that a racist statement was directed at him by Gonzalez. He also attempted to discuss the incident with the head official, who paid little attention to the Brazilian while speaking to the linesman, attempting to figure out whether or not Di María spit in the Spaniard’s face.  

Multiple times, Neymar is heard repeating the phrase, “racism no!” to both officials and a Marseille assistant coach. He had to be separated from said coach after his story’s validity was questioned.  

The referee gave Di María the benefit of the doubt, letting the play continue despite Neymar continually expressing to the officials he was the victim of racial abuse. When confronted by Neymar, Gonzalez dismissed the his claim, saying, “What racism?” 

Tensions would ease between the two until the 94th minute. Gonzalez let the ball roll out of play for a goal kick and did not allow Neymar to get the ball and hurry play, as the Parisians were 1-0 down with little time to spare. The Brazilian violently pushed the Spaniard to the ground, getting the ball and giving it to Marseille keeper Steve Mandanda.  

Gonzalez subsequently got up and grabbed his genitals in an obscene gesture directed at Neymar. As they walked back to their respective positions Neymar repeatedly told Gonzalez, “You are a racist.” Once again, Gonzalez staunchly denied it, asking Neymar what racism he was referring to. The confrontation ended with Neymar walking up to Gonzalez and cupping his ear to tell him something before demeaningly patting him on the back of the head. When confronted by Gonzalez, Neymar came up from behind and hit him in the back of the head, falling to the ground and screaming for a red to be administered to Neymar.  

Tension had also been brewing between substitutes Dario Benedetto of Marseille and Leandro Paredes of PSG, which ultimately came to a breaking point in the 95th minute when Benedetto violently hip-checked Paredes to the floor while attempting to win a header. Paredes got up and violently pushed Benedetto to the ground in return.  

Defenders Layin Kurzawa of PSG and Jordan Amavi of Marseille threw punches and kicks in a fight that had to be separated by their respective teammates.  

All in all, Neymar, Kurzawa and Paredes all saw reds for PSG, while Benedetto and Amavi saw reds for Marseille. When leaving the pitch, Neymar repeated  “He is a racist,” specifically in the direction of the fourth official and camera crew. 

After the match, Neymar went to twitter to say, “The only regret I have is that I didn’t hit this a**hole in the face.” 

Neymar released a more thorough statement Monday afternoon, which said in part that racism and intolerance are unacceptable, and that “pacifying this ‘anti-racism’ movement is our obligation so that the less privileged will naturally receive their defense.” He expressed the pride he has in his father’s black side of the family, while also taking responsibility for reacting the way he did, saying, “Now, yesterday, I lost in the game and I lacked wisdom.” 

Furthermore, he accepted his punishment, but urged the Ligue de Football Professionnel (LFP) to punish the alleged offender as well. “I accept my punishment because I should have followed the path of clean football. I hope, on the other hand, the offender will also be punished,” wrote Neymar. 

Gonzalez also took to Twitter after the match, posing with teammates of different ethnicities and races, pointing to his clean footballing record and inferring that the loss may have influenced Neymar’s accusation. 

“There is no place for racism. Clean record and with many colleagues and friends on a daily basis. Sometimes you have to learn to lose and take it on the field…”  

The French football program Téléfoot reviewed the footage Sunday night and all day Monday, but were unable to find racial abuse from Gonzalez towards Neymar. Now, the footage has been handed over to the LFP, who will determine  whether any disciplinary action will be taken.  

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