June 19 (Reuters) – New Zealand Football (NZF) said it would contact FIFA about protecting players from racism after the men’s national team abandoned a friendly against Qatar at halftime to protest alleged racist abuse against one of their players.
New Zealand All-Whites defender Michael Box, who has Samoan heritage, said shortly before the break that the Qatari opponent had directed a „significantly racist slur”.
The team said they reported the incident and collectively decided not to take the field after half-time as no official action was taken.
It was one of two matches abandoned on Monday in Austria following accusations of racism.
Ireland’s under-21 team has abandoned a match against Kuwait’s Olympic team after a Kuwaiti player used racist language towards an Irish substitute, the Football Association of Ireland said.
NZF president Andrew Bracknell said his governing body fully supported the players’ position and would contact FIFA with their concerns.
„Of course we want to approach FIFA,” he told reporters in Auckland on Tuesday.
„As you know they have recently established a task force around racism, more needs to be done to protect players from racist attacks on the field.
„There’s been some evolution that we don’t think is moving fast enough, so we want to contribute to that, so this will be one of our first ports of call.”
Qatar coach Carlos Queiroz said his team stood by their teammate and the incident was a matter for football officials.
„Obviously two players exchanged words, we don’t know who was first and who was second, it was just between them,” Portuguese coach Al-Qas told Sports Channels.
„The New Zealand players decided to support their teammate and we decided to support ours.”
’Look at the rules’
Video from the New Zealand friendly showed several All Whites players retaliating with the Qatari player shortly after the free kick was awarded.
After a lengthy discussion with New Zealand captain Joe Bell, referee Manuel Schüttengruber awarded New Zealand a 1-0 lead after a Marco Stamenic goal in the 16th minute.
Bracknell said the NZF needed to better understand why the competition authorities had not taken any action.
„Ultimately, when someone receives significant racial abuse, many people hear it, there are many witnesses to something like that, and nothing can be done, then we have a big problem, and maybe it’s time we look at the rules,” he added.
The Qatar FA tweeted that New Zealand had pulled out of the friendly without further details.
Qatar FA, FIFA and the Asian Football Confederation did not immediately comment.
The Football Association of Ireland (FAI) said it was also contacting football’s governing bodies over a „racist comment” made to one of its substitutes.
„The FAI will not tolerate any racism towards our players or staff and will report this serious matter to FIFA and UEFA,” the FAI said on social media.
Kuwait’s FA rejected the FAI’s explanation of events and said the referee stopped the match due to „hardness and tension” between the players.
„Kuwait Football Association… categorically rejects such allegations,” it said in a statement on social media.
„The match was stopped by the referee in the 70th minute to protect the players from injury.”
Europe’s soccer governing body UEFA had no immediate comment.
Racism has dominated football headlines in recent months.
FIFA president Gianni Infantino has announced an anti-racism committee led by Real Madrid forward Vinicius Jr., who suffered racist abuse in Spain’s La Liga.
Reporting by Ian Ransom in Melbourne, Janina Nuno Ríos in Mexico City and Shady Amir in Cairo; Editing by Ken Ferris, Cynthia Osterman and Peter Rutherford
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