PSG-Basaksehir: Demba Ba, locker room leader

A left shin swaying like a false slash in wheat. The nets shiver. PSG are eliminated. This was perhaps Demba Ba’s last stunt on a football field, one evening of the 2014 Champions League with Chelsea; more surely, the most vivid memory of Parisian supporters with regard to the Franco-Senegalese. Tuesday, everything flew away. During the match between Paris-SG and his club Basaksehir, the striker is a substitute. And decisive. The Parc des Princes is empty, the cameras are capturing everything. Demba Ba apostrophes Romanian referee Ovidiu Hategan: “Speaking of a white player you say ‘that guy’ and not ‘that white guy’. So why do you say “that black dude” to talk about a black player? “ Moments earlier, the assistant referee, Sebastian Coltescu, had designated the assistant coach of the Istanbul club, Pierre Achille Webo, using the word “nigga” – or “negru”, black in Romanian. Demba Ba, balaclava in the cold, does not budge. Very quickly assisted by the stars of PSG Kylian Mbappé and Neymar. All the players line up behind the attacker and leave the lawn of the Parc des Princes to return to the locker rooms: the match will not resume.

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Chips, water and Z leg

Ba is one of those miracles of football. No training center, years of hardship, twice the broken leg. An enigma on the scale of a sport which often punishes those who take side roads. “Just the fact of becoming a professional was a victory in itself”, he remembered in October in the Parisian. Child of Sèvres, in the Hauts-de-Seine, he “Supports PSG since childhood”. Family “very modest” as he says, the sixth of seven siblings. Barely of age, while playing in Montrouge, he leaves for London. Pass tries in second class clubs by turning “With chips and water”. Finally joined Rouen, before leaving for Mouscron. Nomadic life. In Belgium, he broke his leg for the first time. In So Foot : “While I was still in the field, with the Z-leg, the first thing I think of is asking the doctor how long it will take to get over it.” Popular fervor in Newcastle followed, a failed stint in Chelsea, Turkey for the first time, exile in China… Demba Ba always travels.

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At Shanghai Shenhua between 2015 and 2019, the Senegalese international (22 capes, 4 goals) finds racism on the pitch, when an opposing player insults him during a championship match – the latter subsequently receives a six-game suspension by the Chinese Federation. “At our level of football player, we can imitate the attitude of Moussa Marega [étant la cible de cris racistes, le joueur du FC Porto avait quitté le terrain lors d’un match de championnat le 16 février, ndlr] but if manifestations of racism in a stadium recur, the 22 players must leave the field. It’s up to the players to take their responsibility! ” he explains to Parisian… At the end of October, shortly before the first leg against PSG.

Very active on the networks, Demba Ba commented in September 2019 on the racist cries that the Inter Milan striker, Romelu Lukaku, suffered in Cagliari – recurring facts in the Sardinia stadium, where Blaise Matuidi and Moïse Kean were complained about the same acts. “And that’s why I decided not to play [en Serie A] when I could… I would like all black players to leave this championship. ”

“If we stand up”

“The culture of racism in football cannot be debated, we all know it exists, Ba recounts in the Independent. It’s very difficult. I don’t want to victimize African players, but at the same time I know we are underestimated. ”

While more and more sportsmen are freeing their word on social issues (especially in the wake of Black Lives Matter and NBA basketball players), Ba had also recently protested against the beating of rap producer Michel Zecler by three police officers or the silence of the international community on the fate of the Uyghur minority in China. “When are we going to see the rest of the world standing up for Muslims? […] As athletes, we have a power that we don’t even know. If we stand up, people stand up with us. ” Tuesday evening, Demba Ba got up. He left the field. Twenty-two players followed him in his revolt, and soon everyone from football.

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Romain Boulho

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