Former England footballer Gary Lineker apologized after describing a prayer celebration by two Muslim Montpellier players on Wednesday night as “eating grass” on an Arab sports TV channel, a report posted by Goal.com reported on Thursday.
Lineker’s was commenting on the 2-2 draw between Montpellier and Schalke when he made the remark about Karim Ait-Fana and Younes Belhanda.
The Islamic prayer posture has become a popular celebration in recent times for Muslim players.
Lineker’s comment, on al-Jazeera Sports +3, immediately drew criticism on his own personal Twitter account, while Goal.com received complaints from readers accusing the former England and Tottenham striker of cultural and religious insensitivity.
Lineker (51) apologised to his 1.1 million Twitter followers minutes after he posted a picture of himself at his son George’s 21st birthday party.
“I’m sorry but I’m not aware of every player’s religion,” tweeted Lineker.
The BBC distanced themselves from the sports presenter’s quip when they were contacted by Goal.com on Thursday, saying the matter only concerned Al Jazeera, the channel he was working for at the time.
“It’s a stupid remark and sheer ignorance,” Ajmal Masroor, a London-based imam, was quoted by Goal.com as saying. “This is very unprofessional from a football legend who is supposed to be a role model.”
“The players are not asking anyone else to join in their worship they are making a gesture in thanks to God -- saying they are ‘eating grass’ is outrageous. I am stunned -- seeing this makes me sick,” Masroor said.