Asian soccer’s governing body on Monday has apologized for referring to the United Arab Emirates national team as “Sand Monkeys.”
The comment came in an article published on the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) website on Monday and set off a wave of criticism in the Gulf country.
The AFC called it a “genuine mistake” inserted by a new writer who saw “Sand Monkeys” wrongly listed as the team’s nickname on its Wikipedia page. The team’s actual nickname is Al-Abyad, or The White, and the Wikipedia page has been corrected.
A spokesperson for the AFC said, that “he [the writer] was reprimanded and the reference was removed immediately. It was a really bad day for him and he was mortified by his mistake. But this was a genuine mistake and it has nothing to do with racism,” according to the Gulf news.
“If we let such terms pass today, next it will be Saudi Arabia or Bahrain that gets insulted. We cannot allow insults to be directed at Arabs,” UAE Football Association President Yousuf al-Serkal said.
The offensive statement, published on the Malaysian based AFC’s website also drew an angry response from UAE fans as they took to the internet to voice their opinions.
“The AFC must be punished and have their website shut down for this offence against UAE,” an Emirati man said on a football blog attached to social networking site Facebook.
Another Facebook voiced the opinion that “monkey for most Asia people is an icon of speed and smartness. I think this is the reason for the problem.”
AFC said it wanted to “apologize for any hurt this might have caused to soccer officials and fans in the UAE.”