June 19 (Reuters) – New Zealand Football (NZF) said it will contact FIFA about protecting players from racism after the men’s national team abandoned a friendly against Qatar at halftime in protest at an alleged racist slur against one of their players.
New Zealand said a Qatari opponent directed a “significant racist slur” at All Whites defender Michael Boxall, who has Samoan heritage, shortly before the interval.
The team said they reported the incident and then collectively decided not to take the field after halftime because no official action was taken.
It was one of two matches to be abandoned in Austria on Monday following allegations of racism.
Ireland’s football association said its under-21 team had abandoned their match against Kuwait’s Olympic side after a Kuwaiti player used racist language toward an Irish substitute.
NZF boss Andrew Pragnell said his governing body fully supported the players’ stand and would contact FIFA with their concerns.
“Certainly we want to reach out to FIFA on this,” he 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 squad stood by their team mate and the incident was a matter for soccer authorities.
“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.”
‘LOOK AT THE RULES’Video of the New Zealand friendly showed multiple All Whites players remonstrating with a Qatari player shortly after a free kick was awarded.
After a long discussion with New Zealand captain Joe Bell, referee Manuel Schuttengruber blew for halftime with New Zealand leading 1-0 after a Marko Stamenic goal in the 16th minute.
Pragnell said NZF needed to get a better understanding of why match officials took no action.
“At the end of the day, I think when someone receives significant racial abuse, multiple people hear it, there’s multiple witnesses to something like that and nothing can be done then we’ve got a bigger problem and maybe it’s time we look at the rules,” he added.
The Qatar FA said on Twitter that New Zealand had withdrawn from the friendly, without giving any further details.
The Qatar FA, FIFA and the Asian Football Confederation did not provide immediate comment.
Ireland’s football association (FAI) said it too would be contacting football’s governing bodies over a “racist remark” made to one of its substitutes.
“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 description of events and said the referee stopped the match because of “roughness and tension” between the players.
“Kuwait Football Association … categorically rejects such accusations,” it said in a statement on social media.
“The match was stopped by the referee in the 70th minute to protect the players from potential injuries.”
Europe’s soccer governing body UEFA did not provide immediate comment.
Racism has dominated football headlines in recent months.
FIFA President Gianni Infantino announced an anti-racism committee led by Real Madrid forward Vinicius Jr, who has been the victim of racist abuse in Spain’s LaLiga.
Reporting by Ian Ransom in Melbourne, Janina Nuno Rios in Mexico City and Shady Amir in Cairo; Editing by Ken Ferris, Cynthia Osterman and Peter Rutherford
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