Schaffert apologised for insulting the national team after their protest in Qatar.
Vice-President of the German Football Association Ralph-Uwe Schaffert has come under fire in Berlin for describing the team as “little monkeys” following their mouth-covering protest during the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar.
“When you have German national team players covering their mouths like little monkeys and having a hairdresser come to their hotel, then it should come as no surprise to see them losing to Japan,” Schaffert said earlier this month, as quoted by Berlin-based media.
Schaffert’s comments addressed the German team’s controversial move during its opening World Cup game against Japan in Doha. The game saw Japan triumph against Germany with a 2-1 score.
The team covered their mouths as they posed for a group photo shortly after FIFA banned the LGBTQ+ “one love” armband from being worn on the pitch. The move was also met with mockery by fans in Qatar and globally.
Schaffert’s remarks triggered outrage in Germany, forcing him to provide an explanation to the press. Speaking to German media, Schaffert apologised for the choice of words.
“I wouldn’t say it that way anymore. That was definitely not right,” he said, explaining that the term “little monkeys” refers to the three wise monkeys symbol.
“I can only say that this action was not well received. I wasn’t in Qatar myself, I only followed it on TV. That’s how the term ‘little monkeys’ came about, based on the three monkeys that cover their mouths, ears and eyes,” he added.
The mouth-covering act raised eyebrows at the stadium and beyond.
Shortly after the protest, Qatari football fans hit back at the team’s move by covering their mouths while holding posters of former Germany player Mesut Ozil.
Ozil, a child of Turkish immigrants who was born in Germany, charged the nation’s football federation, supporters, and media with racism in their treatment of persons of Turkish ancestry.
He was forced out of the team when he posed for a photo with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
The German protest in Qatar also came off the back of wider criticism driven by the west over Qatar’s hosting of the World Cup – the first to be held in the Arab and Muslim world.
Officials in Qatar and beyond described the coverage as an unprecedented racist campaign targeting the country.
Last month, the vice president of the German Football Association Ronnie Zimmerman said the criticism over Qatar was harsh.
“I consider the general and absolute rejection an exaggeration, because it does not lead to anything but rejection from the other side,” Zimmerman told the Rhein-Neckar-Zeitung newspaper.