Qatar backs footballer in New Zealand football racism row

New Zealand accused Qatar’s Abdurisag of using racial slur against a player of Samoan origin during a friendly match.

Sweden's forward Anthony Elanga and New Zealand's defender Michael Boxall
Michael Boxall during the international friendly football match between Qatar and New Zealand, in Ritzing in Austria on June 16, 2023 [Jonathan Nackstrand/AFP)

Qatar Football Association (QFA) has hit back at allegations of racism against one of its players in a match against New Zealand that led to the game’s abandonment at half-time.

With New Zealand leading 1-0 in the friendly match taking place in Austria on Monday, a melee took place between players from both sides in the 40th minute.

New Zealand captain Joe Bell complained to referee Manuel Schuttengruber, accusing Qatar’s Yusuf Abdurisag of using a racial slur against Michael Boxall who is of Samoan origin.

New Zealand refused to take the field after the interval and, in a statement issued on Tuesday, New Zealand Football (NZF) said the team refused to play the second half after the referee refused to take action.

On Wednesday, the QFA condemned the “unwarranted attention” the player received and remained “fully committed to supporting” Abdurisag.

“Everyone at QFA stands with Abdurisag and strongly condemns the unwarranted attention he has received in the past 24 hours,” Jassim bin Rashid al-Buenain, QFA president, said in a statement.

“The QFA remains fully committed to supporting Yusuf at this time.”

New Zealand to refer the incident to FIFA

New Zealand accused the Qatari winger of directing a “significant racist slur” at Boxall.

The NZF said it would contact FIFA about protecting players from racism following the incident.

In a statement released after the game, it stated that “the racial slur was heard by several New Zealand players, including Boxall”.

NZF CEO Andrew Pragnell said they “fully support the action of our players”, who decided to abandon the match.

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

Last week, FIFA President Gianni Infantino insisted that matches should be abandoned by the referee if there was a racist incident.

“There is no football if there is racism. So let’s stop the games,” Infantino said.

“The referees have this opportunity in FIFA competitions as we have this process for stopping the game, and actions have to be taken at every level, at national level as well.”

Abdurisag denies making racist comments

On Tuesday, both the Qatari federation and Abdurisag denied making racist comments.

Abdurisag “confirmed an exchange of words with an opponent in the heat of the moment” but maintained he uttered “no insulting or discriminatory remarks”, the Qatari federation said in a statement.

“During last night’s game, I was the target of racist abuse from a member of the opposing team,” Abdurisag said in a separate statement.

“To my complete shock, that same player accused me of using offensive language and the game was abandoned.

“During my travels around the world as a footballer I have experienced racist abuse, but never have I been both a victim and the accused in the same incident.

“It’s true that players often say things to each other in the heat of the moment, but there is a clear line that I have never crossed.”

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies