On June 19, New Zealand Football (NZF) announced that it will reach out to FIFA, expressing the need for player protection against racism. This decision came after the men’s national team decided to abandon a friendly match against Qatar during halftime in response to an alleged racist remark directed towards one of their players.
According to New Zealand, a Qatari opponent directed a “significant racist slur” towards Michael Boxall, a defender for the All Whites who has Samoan heritage. This incident occurred shortly before halftime.
The team immediately reported the incident, but when no official action was taken, they collectively made the decision not to continue playing in the second half.
Austria witnessed two matches being abandoned on Monday due to allegations of racism. Ireland’s football association also reported that their under-21 team abandoned their match against Kuwait’s Olympic side after an Irish substitute was subjected to racist language by a Kuwaiti player.
NZF boss Andrew Pragnell expressed full support for the players’ stance and confirmed that they will approach FIFA with their concerns. Pragnell also highlighted the need for improved measures to protect players from racial attacks on the field.
“We want to communicate our concerns to FIFA,” he stated during a press conference in Auckland. “FIFA has recently established a task-force to address racism, but we believe that more needs to be done, and at a faster pace. We want to contribute to this effort, making it one of our top priorities.”
Responding to the incident, Qatar coach Carlos Queiroz affirmed solidarity with his team mate and emphasized that the matter should be handled by soccer authorities.
“It appears that two players got into an exchange of words, and at this point, we don’t know who initiated it or who responded. It’s solely between them,” said the Portuguese coach in an interview with Al-kass Sports Channels. “The New Zealand players chose to support their team mate, and we made the same decision to stand by our player.”
Video footage of the match captured multiple All Whites players confronting a Qatari player shortly after a free kick had been awarded.
During a lengthy discussion with New Zealand captain Joe Bell, referee Manuel Schuttengruber blew the halftime whistle. At this point, New Zealand was leading 1-0 after a goal by Marko Stamenic in the 16th minute.
Pragnell emphasized that NZF needed a better understanding of why the match officials took no action in response to the incident.
“In the end, when someone experiences significant racial abuse and numerous witnesses testify to it, but no action is taken, we face a more significant problem. Perhaps it’s time we revisit the rules,” added Pragnell.
The Qatar Football Association stated on Twitter that New Zealand withdrew from the friendly match, without providing further details. Meanwhile, the Qatar FA, FIFA, and the Asian Football Confederation did not offer immediate comment on the matter.
Ireland’s football association (FAI) also expressed their intention to contact football’s governing bodies regarding a “racist remark” made towards one of their substitutes.
“The FAI vehemently opposes any form of racism towards our players or staff, and we will report this serious matter to FIFA and UEFA,” the FAI stated on social media.
However, Kuwait’s Football Association disputed the FAI’s account of the events and stated that the match was stopped by the referee due to “roughness and tension” between the players.
“The Kuwait Football Association firmly denies these accusations,” the association declared in a social media statement. “The referee halted the match in the 70th minute to protect the players from potential injuries.”
UEFA, the governing body of European soccer, did not immediately provide any comments regarding the incidents.
Racism has been a prominent issue in football news in recent months. FIFA President Gianni Infantino announced the formation of an anti-racism committee led by Real Madrid forward Vinicius Jr., who himself has been a target of racist abuse in Spain’s LaLiga.