NZ abandon match vs. Qatar amid racism claims

  • ESPN

Jun 19, 2023, 07:33 PM ET

New Zealand refused to appear for the second half of their friendly against Qatar in Austria on Monday after allegations of racial abuse toward defender Michael Boxall by an opponent.

It was one of two such occurrences in Austria on Monday, with Ireland’s football association saying its under-21 team had abandoned a match against Kuwait’s Olympic side after a Kuwaiti player used racist language toward an Irish substitute.

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

New Zealand-born Boxall is captain of Major League Soccer side Minnesota United and is of Samoan heritage. His team was leading 1-0 after a Marko Stamenic goal in the 16th minute. The incident occurred just before half-time. Referee Manuel Schuttengruber had a long discussion with New Zealand captain Joe Bell and soon after blew for half-time.

“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.

NZF CEO Andrew Pragnell said the New Zealand players agreed collectively to abandon the game and the governing body fully supported them.

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

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 teammate and we also decided to support our player.

“Let the football authorities make the decision about what happened here.”

The Qatar FA said on its Twitter feed that New Zealand had withdrawn from the friendly, without giving any further details.

Reuters contacted the governing body for comment.

Boxhall’s club team in Minnesota also tweeted out a message of support for its team captain.

“You’re a world-class member of our community and we are lucky to call you a leader at our club, Michael,” the Loons tweeted. “We stand in full support of you and we can’t wait to welcome you back to Minnesota.”

Ireland’s football association (FAI) said the under-21 international was abandoned after a “racist remark” by a Kuwaiti player.

“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.”

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

The New Zealand match was part of Qatar’s preparations for this summer’s Gold Cup, which they have been invited to as part of a strategic partnership between Asian football and Concacaf.

Racism in football has hit the headlines again in recent weeks, with FIFA president Gianni Infantino announcing an anti-racism committee led by Real Madrid forward Vinicius Junior, who has been the victim of racist abuse in LaLiga.

Information from Reuters and The Associated Press was used in this story.