FAI says alleged racist remark made by Kuwaiti player was heard by ‘a number of players’

Ireland Under-21 match against Kuwait called off as was senior international between New Zealand and Qatar

The Football Association of Ireland have entered a war of words with the Kuwait football association following an accusation of racism against a Kuwaiti player during an Under-21 friendly in Austria on Monday.

The match was abandoned on 60 minutes with the Republic of Ireland leading 3-0, when an Irish substitute and his team-mates heard the alleged comment.

Branding the FAI statement as “false,” the Kuwaiti FA strenuously deny that their player made a racist remark while Jarrah Al-Ateeqi, the director of the Kuwait Olympic football team, made a counteraccusation of “excessive roughness and tension between the players” that he claims led to the game being called off to “protect the players.”

The FAI has reported the incident to Uefa and Fifa, with the global governing body stating that they are unable to comment at this stage in the disciplinary process.


“Our position here is very simple and unequivocal,” said FAI chief executive Jonathan Hill. “We take a zero tolerance approach to any form of racism and we fully support the actions of Jim Crawford and his team. No player at any level of football should be exposed to this type of situation.”

An FAI statement added more context to an evolving situation: “During the second half of Ireland Under-21s’ international friendly with Kuwait Under-22s in Austria on Monday evening, we can once again confirm that a racist remark was made to an Ireland substitute by a Kuwaiti player. The comment was heard by a number of Ireland players who reported this immediately to match officials as well as to members of the Ireland and Kuwait team staff.

“Due to the nature of the remark made and with no affirmative action in relation to it from our opponents, the game was abandoned. FAI staff and players were fully in support with this decision. The FAI has offered its full and unequivocal support to the player who was subjected to racism and to his team-mates.”

Ireland under-21s manager Jim Crawford said he was “proud of the stance our players and staff took to stand by one of our own” adding that “football’s beauty is its inclusivity and we won’t let racism ruin our game.”

On Monday night, a Kuwait FA press release stated that the FAI’s “circulated news is false” and that the local Austrian referee halted proceedings “in order to protect the players from potential injuries.”

The referee’s report will bring more clarity to the opposing stances taken by both associations.

The Kuwait FA added that they “rejects and confronts all forms of discrimination, inequality, and racism” and aim “to enhance social cohesion among athletes.”

Meanwhile the senior international between New Zealand and Qatar, also in Austria, was cut short after the New Zealand Football Association said one of its players, Michael Boxall, had a racist remark directed at him in the first half by a Qatari opponent. The New Zealand match was played under Fifa jurisdiction, meaning the referee’s report will be sent to the global governing body as a matter of course. Fifa would be expected to take a tough stance if one or both of the allegations are found proven.

Fifa president Gianni Infantino said last week: “It’s very important not just to talk about racism and discrimination, but to take action in a decisive and convincing manner – zero tolerance. There is no football if there is racism – so let’s stop the games. 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.”

Infantino made the remarks after meeting with the Brazil squad in Barcelona, including Real Madrid forward Vinicius Junior who has been on the receiving end of repeated racial abuse in Spain this year.

NZF’s chief executive, Andrew Pragnell, said: “Certainly we want to reach out to Fifa on this. You know they have recently established a taskforce 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.”

Video of the New Zealand friendly showed multiple All Whites players remonstrating with a Qatar player shortly after a free-kick was awarded. After a long discussion with New Zealand’s captain, Joe Bell, the referee, Manuel Schüttengruber, blew for half-time with New Zealand leading 1-0. Pragnell said NZF needed to get a better understanding of why match officials took no action.

“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 said.

Gavin Cummiskey

Gavin Cummiskey

Gavin Cummiskey is The Irish Times' Soccer Correspondent