New Zealand abandons friendly against Qatar amid allegations of racism

June 19 (Reuters) – New Zealand refused to appear for the second half of their friendly against Qatar in Austria on Monday after New Zealand said a Qatari player had called All Whites defender Michael Boxall a racist epithet.

It was one of two such incidents in Austria on Monday, where the Irish Football Association said its under-21 team abandoned a match against the Kuwaiti Olympic team after a Kuwaiti player used racist language towards an Irish substitute.

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

New Zealand born Boxall has Samoan heritage. New Zealand were leading 1-0 after Marko Staminic’s 16th-minute goal. The incident occurred just before half-time. Referee Manuel Schöntgruber had a long discussion with New Zealand captain Joe Bell and soon after he exploded in the first half.

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

Football New Zealand chief executive Andrew Pragnell said the New Zealand players had collectively agreed to give up the game and that the board had their full support.

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

Qatar coach Carlos Queiroz said his team stands by his player. “It seems that two players exchanged words, and we do not know who was the first and who was the second … only between them,” the Portuguese coach told Al-Kass sports channels.

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“The New Zealand players decided to support their teammate and we also decided to support our player.

“Let the football authorities decide what happened here.”

The Qatar Football Association said on its Twitter account that New Zealand had withdrawn from the friendly match, without giving further details.

Reuters has contacted the Governing Body for comment.

The Football Association of Ireland (FAI) said the under-21 international had been let go after a “racist remark” by a Kuwaiti player.

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

The Kuwait Football Association contested the federation’s claim. “The Kuwait Football Association … categorically rejects such accusations,” the Kuwait Football Association said in a statement on social media.

He added, “The match did not reach its end due to excessive roughness and tension between the players. The referee stopped the match in the 70th minute to protect the players from possible injuries.”

Ireland were leading 3-0 when the match was stopped.

Racism has dominated football headlines in recent months.

FIFA President Gianni Infantino announced the formation of a committee to combat racism, led by Real Madrid striker Vinicius Junior, who was subjected to racist abuse in the Spanish League.

(Reporting by Ian Ransom in Melbourne, Janina Nuno Rios in Mexico City and Chadi Amir in Cairo; Editing by Ken Ferris and Cynthia Osterman

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