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Soccer match between New Zealand and Qatar abandoned at halftime amid racial abuse allegations

<i>Andrew Surma/SIPAPRE/Sipa USA/AP</i><br/>Michael Boxall
Andrew Surma/SIPAPRE/Sipa USA/AP
Michael Boxall

By George Ramsay and Kevin Dotson, CNN

(CNN) — Two soccer federations are at loggerheads after a match between New Zealand and Qatar was abandoned at halftime on Monday, with both disputing the events preceding the game’s abrupt end.

The New Zealand team refused to take to the pitch after halftime in protest at an alleged racial slur made towards defender Michael Boxall, saying that no action was taken.

“Michael Boxall was racially abused during the first half of the game by a Qatari player,” New Zealand Football said in a statement on social media shortly after the abandonment. “No official action was taken so the team have agreed not to come out for the second half of the match.”

The Qatar Football Association (QFA) issued a statement on Tuesday explaining how Qatari player Yusuf Abdurisag had “an exchange of words” with an opponent but that “no racial or discriminatory language was used.”

The statement continued: “In the contrary, Yusuf stressed that, in fact, he himself was racially abused during the match.

“In any case, the QFA takes the allegations incredibly seriously and stands against racism in all its forms. The experience of racism should never be trivialised and remains a serious problem within the game.”

In a separate statement sent to CNN, Yusuf confirmed that he was the victim of racist abuse during Monday’s game.

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

Jassim bin Rashid Al Buenain, president of the Qatar FA, said the QFA stands with Yusuf and “strongly condemns the unwarranted attention he said received.”

On Thursday, New Zealand Football told CNN that it “fully refute[s]” the latest accusations from the QFA and stands by its players.

“The footage of the game clearly shows several of our players responding in unison to something offensive being said and the racial slur was heard widely by a number of players on the field,” New Zealand Football said.

“Rather than New Zealand Football or the Qatari Football Association commenting further, we have referred this matter to FIFA to investigate due to the seriousness of its nature.”

A FIFA spokesperson told CNN that the organization is awaiting match reports which will be reviewed accordingly.

New Zealand was leading 1-0 when the match, which was being played at Generali-Arena in Wien, Austria, was abandoned.

In a statement on its website, New Zealand football said the alleged racial slur against Boxall, who is of Samoan heritage, was heard by several players.

“In the 40th minute of the New Zealand vs Qatar game today in Austria, a Qatari player used a racial slur towards All Whites defender Michael Boxall after a confrontation between the two players,” the statement said.

“The players reported the incident, but no official action was taken.”

New Zealand Football CEO Andrew Pragnell also said in the statement: “We fully support the action of our players, who agreed collectively this course of action.

“We never want to see a match abandoned but some issues are bigger than football and it is important to make a stand.

“There is no room for racism in football.”

Qatar manager Carlos Queiroz said that the incident occurred after “two players exchanged words” shortly before halftime.

“Who was first, who was second, it’s only between them,” Queiroz told Alkass Sports Channel.

“The New Zealand players, they decided to support their teammate. As is obvious, all our team decided to support our player. But the staff of New Zealand also, they supported the statement of the New Zealand player; we support our player.

“They decided to abandon the game with no witnesses … It’s just an argument between two players.”

In response to Monday’s match being abandoned, the organization Football Against Racism in Europe (FARE) said: “Matches being abandoned in this way confirms a new wave, perhaps a new crisis, of discrimination in football. Awareness is high and young players are no longer prepared to tolerate racism or homophobia on the pitch.”

Last week, a match between Mexico and the US was paused in the 90th minute because of homophobic chanting, before the referee opted to end the game around four minutes early amid continued discriminatory chants from the crowd.

™ & © 2023 Cable News Network, Inc., a Warner Bros. Discovery Company. All rights reserved.

CNN’s Sammy Mncwabe and Wayne Sterling contributed to reporting.

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