A FIFA spokesperson said it is premature to speculate on the penalties that might be imposed on either national federation.
FIFA has appeared to adopt a cautious approach to an incident involving racism on the pitch that has seen both Qatar and New Zealand throw accusations following a friendly match.
The football governing bloc stated it is waiting to gather all the necessary information before announcing a final judgement on the issue.
“FIFA is compiling reports, looking at reports taken from the game and they will be analysed and looked at,” a FIFA spokesperson told NZ Herald. “We are waiting to get the full picture and all the information on what happened. Depending on what the report says, further steps can take place.”
On Tuesday, an Al Annabi versus All Whites friendly match was cut short after the New Zealand side opted to abandon the game, citing alleged racism from a qatari player.
“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,” New Zealand Football (NZF) claimed in a statement after the game.
However, Qatar’s Yusuf Abdurisag quickly denied accusations that he used a racial slur against his opponent, confirming he was in fact the victim of racism.
In a statement issued on Tuesday, the Qatari national team player clarified details surrounding the controversial incident, amid mass criticism across Western media.
“During last night’s game, I was the target of racist abuse from a member of the opposing team. To my complete shock, that same player accused me of using offensive language and the game was abandoned,” the statement read.
“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,” he added.
“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. From personal experience, I know the impact that hateful words can have on people and their families. It’s ridiculous to suggest that I would use those words against anyone else.”
The incident and the subsequent abandonment of the match has sparked widespread attention in social media and the football world.
Both the Qatar Football Association and its Kiwi counterpart have backed their respective players and urged for an urgent probe by FIFA.
Every senior international football match, whether competitive or friendly, has a match delegate or commissioner who oversees the proceedings and reports back to the football governing body.
The delegate’s report for the friendly is expected to entail a summary of the facts provided by referee Manuel Schuttengruber, as well as submissions from both the Qatari delegation and the All Whites team management.
FIFA has not confirmed whether there will be further discussions with the national federations involved.
“FIFA’s position on racism in general is quite clear,” said the spokesperson. “But about this particular match we are not in a position to comment because we have to wait for all the facts. Once they are analysed we will be in a position to potentially speak further.”
If deemed necessary, a disciplinary investigation that would involve FIFA inspectors and a presentation of evidence could be initiated.
The FIFA disciplinary committee, consisting of representatives from each of the body’s six confederations, convenes periodically throughout the year to decide on possible sanctions. However, it is premature to speculate on the penalties that might be imposed on either national federation.
The timeline to resolve the issue is hard to pinpoint as it depends on the complexity of the issues involved. “It depends completely on the complexity or what the issues are,” said the FIFA spokesperson. “For these kinds of issues it’s difficult to put a timeframe on because no case is exactly the same.”
This situation presents a delicate predicament for FIFA.
While they have taken a strong stance against racist behaviour and abuse, the lack of official action taken by the referee during the match, combined with the counter allegation made by the Qatar FA that Abdurisag himself was subjected to racial abuse, complicates matters.
FIFA, after dismantling an anti-racism task force and claiming its objectives were accomplished, has acknowledged that the problem remains unresolved.
Nearly seven years later, it has established a comparable organisation led by the Real Madrid forward Vinicius Jr., a recent victim of abuse. He will suggest a more stringent approach to punishments for discriminatory behaviour.
The ‘murky’ incident
A video of the incident that spread online failed to show whether any racist action or word were said, however an apparent heated moment between Qatar’s Yousuf Abdurisag – who is of African descent – and New Zealand’s Boxall in the 40th minute, was clear as day.
In the clip, an animated Max Mata is seen to react to something said by Abdurisag as he stood up. The Kiwi player appears to say “ref, he can’t say that ref.”
Shortly after, Abdurisag can be seen saying “watch your mouth” to the Kiwi player.
The murky details surrounding the incident have triggered questions both on and off the pitch, with Qatar team manager Carlos Queiroz confirming no one knew what was actually said.
“The facts are the following. Apparently two players on the pitch exchanged words. The New Zealand players decided to support their team-mate. All our team decided to support our player.”
In response to the altercation, social media users questioned accusations targeting Qatari players, some of which are of South American, Iraqi – or like Abdurisag -African descent.
“A black player racially abused to white player?” one user commented.
Experts say while assumptions and stereotypes about white individuals may exist, the case of racism historically has been defined by Eurocentric beliefs, with many refuting claims that ‘reverse racism’ can exist.
The friendly was the last match before Qatar’s CONCACAF Gold Cup campaign begins.
The 2022 World Cup hosts were invited as a guest team.