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Hungarian paper defends Romanian referee in racism row

December 16th, 2020

As the Romanian press praises Magyar Nemzet for taking up the defence of a Romanian referee shamed even by his own government, a conservative analyst is outraged by what he sees as attempts by international bodies at policing national languages.

The Champions’ League football match between Paris Saint Germain and Başakşehir (Turkey) was interrupted last week and had to be continued the next day after players protested against what they perceived as a racist remark by the Romanian reserve referee, Sebastian Coltescu. Coltescu reported to the main referee what he regarded as insulting behaviour towards him by the assistant coach of the Turkish team, Pierre Webo, a former Cameroonian international. As the main referee was also Romanian, the conversation was conducted in the Romanian language. When the latter asked him to identify the coach, Coltescu said, ‘Ala negru’, which means ‘the black one’, in Romanian. Both teams then left the pitch after only 14 minutes of playing time, assuming that Coltescu’s remark was racist. In fact, ‘negru’ is simply the Romanian word for ‘black’ and is not a pejorative. The Romanian referee was immediately sent home and the Romanian Minister of Youth and Sports apologised and condemned his compatriot. Magyar Nemzet then wrote an angry comment condemning those who shamed the Romanian referee without trying to understand what happened. That comment received extremely favourable echoes in the Romanian media. Coltescu insists on his innocence. an investigation by UEFA into the incident is underway. 

On Mandiner, István Krómer writes international bodies should not tell Hungarians or Romanians how to speak in their own mother tongues. He asks why other peoples should follow the United States in its constant changes of language. Negro, he writes was perfectly acceptable even in the 1950s; it is only more recently that it was replaced by the word ‘black’, which is still in use, for instance in the name of the Black Lives Matter movement. Nevertheless, the politically correct expression is ‘Afro-American or African American’. However, Krómer asks, what about the rest of the countries? Should they call black people Afro-French or Afro-German? In Romanian and in Hungarian the world néger or negru has no offensive connotation at all, he writes. His problem is that nowadays if you are accused of racism it is you who must justify yourself and might easily find yourself in disgrace.

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