Former Germany international Steffen Freund is embroiled in a racism row with Muslim football players in Germany. He has apologised for comments he made on a Sunday morning television talk show in which he suggested that the North African heritage of Schalke players Amine Harit and Nabil Bentaleb could explain their characteristics and attitude.
Harit, who is of French-Moroccan heritage, and Bentaleb, who is of French-Algerian heritage, are both currently suspended by Schalke as the Bundesliga side struggle with problems on and off the pitch.
Bundesliga side Schalke tonight confirm that midfield duo Nabil Bentaleb and Amine Harit will train individually and the contract of striker Vedad Ibisević will be dissolved on December 31.
According to Bild, Bentaleb and Harit have all been suspended until further notice whilst Schalke sporting director Jochen Schneider has also announced the departure of technical director Michael Reschke due to “different conceptions regarding the future of the club.”
Speaking about Bentaleb, Schneider said: “He is undisputedly an excellent footballer but Schalke and Bentaleb obviously don’t go together. There wasn’t one particular moment, it was a process. We will part ways by summer 2021 at the latest.”
Steffen Freund apologises for racist TV comments about Muslim players
Commenting on the suspensions on the “Doppelpass” football show on Sport1 on Sunday morning, Freund, who made 53 Bundesliga appearances for Schalke as a player and also played for Borussia Dortmund and Tottenham Hotspur, said of Bentaleb:
“He is one of the best players but he is of French-Algerian heritage … if they have a squad planner, they should know that it can quickly lead to a certain aggression and lack of discipline if he doesn’t play.”
Referring also to Harit, he said that “every player must be ready to pour his heart out for the club … but of course he can’t given his roots.”
As a clip of Freund’s comments spread on social media, Bentaleb himself responded, saying sarcastically: “When it’s said with so much finesse … class, Steffen.”
Meanwhile, Schalke’s official Twitter account posted: “Harit’s and Bentaleb’s suspension has nothing to do with their roots! Such decisions fundamentally do not have anything to do with heritage.”
It’s not the first time that guests on “Doppelpass,” a popular, long-running show filmed in the Hilton Hotel at Munich Airport and aired every Sunday morning, have made controversial comments.
Ozil was the first to be Attacked for his Heritage
This is not a rare situation in the German league or country. Mesut Ozil a world cup winner and star of world football was attacked by the media and the hierarchy in world football after he was seen with a picture with Turkish President Recip Erdogan.
The Arsenal midfielder has Turkish ancestry but grew up in Germany and defended his right to meet Erdoğan in a lengthy statement in which he also attacked the German football federation (DFB). “For me, having a picture with President Erdoğan wasn’t about politics or elections, it was about me respecting the highest office of my family’s country,” Özil wrote on Twitter.
III / III pic.twitter.com/c8aTzYOhWU
— Mesut Özil (@MesutOzil1088) July 22, 2018
Freund attempts to explain himself
Freund attempted to explain his remarks later on in the program, insisting that they were not meant to be racist but arguing that heritage plays a role “in terms of how you grow up and what your mentality is.”
Later, he took to Twitter, writing: “Everybody who knows me and has followed my career knows that I abhor every form of racism. Of course, neither skin colour, religion or heritage determine a player’s performance.
“Nobody is more annoyed than me that I expressed myself so unmistakably. I would like to sincerely apologize.”
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