New Zealand refuse to play second half of friendly against Qatar amid racism allegations

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New Zealand declined to continue playing in the second half of a friendly match against Qatar in Austria on Monday.

This decision was made after a Qatari player directed a racial slur towards New Zealand defender Michael Boxall. Another similar incident occurred in Austria on the same day, where Ireland’s under-21 team abandoned a match against Kuwait’s Olympic side due to a Kuwaiti player using racist language towards an Irish substitute.

“A Qatari player used a racial slur towards All Whites defender Michael Boxall after a confrontation between the two players. The racial slur was heard by several New Zealand players, including Boxall,” New Zealand Football (NZF), the country’s governing soccer body, said in a statement. New Zealand-born Boxall has Samoan heritage.

New Zealand had a 1-0 advantage with a goal from Marko Stamenic in the 16th minute when the incident took place shortly before halftime. Referee Manuel Schuttengruber engaged in a lengthy conversation with New Zealand captain Joe Bell and subsequently signaled the end of the first half.

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“No official action was taken so the team have agreed not to come out for the second half of the match,” NZF said on social media.

The CEO of New Zealand Football, Andrew Pragnell, stated that the New Zealand players made a joint decision to cancel the game, and the governing body fully backed their choice.

“There is no room for racism in football,” he said.

“Certainly we want to reach out to FIFA on this,” he later told reporters in Auckland on Tuesday.

“You know they have recently established a task force around racism, more needs to be done to protect players from racial attacks on the field.”

“There’s been some evolution, we don’t think it’s moving fast enough so we want to contribute to that and so that will be one of our first ports of call.”

Qatar coach Carlos Queiroz said his team stood by their player. “Apparently two players exchanged words, and we don’t know who was first, who was second, it’s only between them,” the Portuguese coach told Al-kass Sports Channels.

“The New Zealand players decided to support their team-mate and we also decided to support our player. Let the football authorities make the decision about what happened here.”

The Qatar Football Association announced on its Twitter account that New Zealand had pulled out of the friendly match, but did not provide any additional information. Reuters reached out to the governing body for a statement.

The under-21 international match was called off by Ireland’s football association (FAI) due to a discriminatory comment made by a player from Kuwait.

“The FAI does not tolerate any racism towards any of our players or staff and will be reporting this serious matter to FIFA and UEFA,” the FAI said on social media.

Kuwait’s FA disputed the FAI’s claim. “Kuwait Football Association … categorically rejects such accusations,” it said in a statement on social media.

“The match did not reach completion due to excessive roughness and tension between the players. The match was stopped by the referee in the 70th minute to protect the players from potential injuries.”

The match was halted with Ireland in a 3-0 lead. Racism has been a prominent issue in football lately. 

Gianni Infantino, the president of FIFA, recently established an anti-racism committee headed by Vinicius Jr, a forward for Real Madrid who has experienced racist attacks in Spain’s LaLiga.

READ ALSO: Euro 2024 Qualifiers Review: Saka bags a hattrick as England put 7 past North Macedonia

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