Racism Allegations Rock HBKU Men’s Football League
March 30, 2016
Written by Meher Mehtab.
The Northwestern University in Qatar men’s football team boycotted its final match against Texas A&M University at Qatar, after the latter’s supporters allegedly chanted racists slurs at NU-Q players. The incident occurred during the Qatar Foundation Education City Football League match on February 23, 2016, according to supporters of the NU-Q team who were in the stands that day.
“As a team we decided to boycott the game on March 16 because we did not feel safe playing in that environment,” said Shahnawaz Zali, captain of the NU-Q football team. “Education City should be a safe place for everyone regardless of their skin color and/or ethnic and religious background.”
According to Zali, the two teams have had a history of conflict, including supporters swearing at the players and “pitch invasion,” where supporters from the opposing team’s stands would come onto the pitch and physically attack players.
The alleged incident on Feb. 23 also prompted the University College London Qatar men’s football team to boycott its final match against TAMUQ on March 22 as an act of solidarity with NU-Q against racism.
Omer Mohammad, a graduate student at UCL Qatar, posted a Facebook status on March 22nd announcing that his team was boycotting their match against TAMUQ. He said that when their team was notified of the Feb. 23 incident, they decided among themselves to not play.
“At this point TAMUQ admin and players deny it [the alleged racist chanting] even happened. [They should] reprimand the person who said it. I am sure there was a crowd of students at the game and one of them blurted it out. No one is coming forward with a name,” Mohammad said.
Once the issue was brought to light, the student affairs departments at both NU-Q and TAMUQ were notified. Both were actively involved in investigating the matter further.
“NU-Q supports the team and its decision. It also looks forward to working in collaboration with the other schools in Education City to ensure an atmosphere of mutual trust and respect,” said Greg Bergida, director of student affairs at NU-Q.
A mass email sent by TAMUQ student affairs to their student body on March 22nd said that both universities investigated the matter and found no merit to take further action. The email asked TAMUQ members to refrain from commenting or responding further on this issue.
But a more recent email from TAMUQ Department of Student Affairs Director Damian Medina sent on March 28th contradicts this. In response to a request for comment, Medina wrote in an email to The Daily Q that the university was still investigating the matter.
“Texas A&M University at Qatar takes all allegations seriously and are working with NU-Q and the sports league to investigate any allegations made against any students, at TAMUQ and/or other branch campuses, and address the issue(s) to be able to move forward positively,” he wrote.
“We cannot comment on any specifics due to U.S. laws relating to student privacy, but as with any investigation we welcome anyone with actionable evidence to contact me directly at [email protected].”
“A matter of this height should have been taken seriously even if it doesn’t have proof, and this shows how Texas A&M student affairs does nothing to prevent this issue from happening again,” Zali said.
“I wasn’t targeted but I can totally understand why there was an outcry amongst our players. I have heard it’s been happening for a long time,” said Zaki Hussain, a player on the NU-Q football team, of the incident in question and the conflicts between the two teams. “I think as a part of a supposedly “first-world” institution, we should also behave with ‘first-world’ ethics.”
Hussain is looking to NU-Q to investigate the incident.
“They [NU-Q] are trying their best and I understand they have limitations and protocols,” he said. “But I think it’s worth the effort because who else will represent us except our own school?”
Despite repeated requests, TAMUQ players have so far refused to comment on the Feb. 23 incident.
The Qatar Foundation Education City Football League season came to an end Tuesday. Texas A&M ended up as runners up after getting points for all the matches that were boycotted against them. The Hamad Bin Khalifa University (HBKU) team won the overall league.