NZ abandon Qatar friendly over ‘racist slur’ against ex-SuperSport player Boxall

New Zealand and former SuperSport United defebder Michael Boxall. File photo
New Zealand and former SuperSport United defebder Michael Boxall. File photo
Image: Albert Perez/Getty Images

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 half time 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.

Boxall played a spell at Premier Soccer League team SuperSport United from 2015 to 2017 before joining his current club, Minnesota United in the US's Major League Soccer. 

New Zealand said they reported the incident and then collectively decided not to take the field after half time in the game at the Sonnenseestadion in Ritzing, Austria because no official action was taken.

It was one of two matches abandoned in Austria on Monday after allegations of racism.

Ireland's football association said its under-21 team abandoned their match against Kuwait's Olympic side after a Kuwaiti player used racist language towards 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 said 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 teammate 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 teammate and we also decided to support our player.”

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 antiracism committee led by Real Madrid forward Vinicius Jr, who has been the victim of racist abuse in Spain's LaLiga.