Pantsil, who plays for Israeli club Hapoel Tel Aviv, celebrated both goals in Ghana's match on Saturday by pulling an Israeli flag out of his sock and waving it at the cameras.

The flag waving raised some eyebrows, not least in the Arab and Muslim world, and sparked several emails from fans to Aljazeera.net - some critical, and others merely puzzled as to the connection between the Ghanaian player and Israel.

Explaining the incident on Monday, a Ghana team spokesman, Randy Abbey, said that Pantsil's action was "a thank you to his fans in the Israeli league".

"It was naive, he was not aware of the consequences of his actions," Abbey said. "We apologise to everyone who felt offended by this.

"It was not an official message from the Ghanaian team. We do not represent Israeli politics or the politics of any other country. We are just here to play football."

"The player who displayed the Israeli flag disappointed me very much"

Mohammed from the US,
email to Aljazeera.net

"Commentators in countries that actually have peace treaties with Israel should consider why the display of an Israeli flag is so insulting to them rather than coming out with ridiculous conspiracy theories"

Dom Morgan from Israel,
email to Aljazeera.net

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In Egypt, which played host to the African Nations Cup this year, newspaper commentators let rip with a barrage of insults and fury against Panstil.

"The ignorant and stupid Pantsil, who spent 20 days in Egypt  during the last African Nations Cup, plays for Hapoel," wrote sports commentator Alaa Sadek in the daily Al-Akhbar newspaper.

Some papers described 25-year-old Pantsil as a "Mossad agent", others said "an Israeli had paid him to do it", but the most elaborate theory was offered by the state-owned daily Al-Ahram.

'Abused'

Writing in the paper, sports analyst Hassan el-Mestekawi said that many Ghanaian players attend football training camps set up by an Israeli coach who "discovered the treasure of African talent, and abused the poverty of the continent's children" with the ultimate goal of selling them off to European clubs.

During the match itself the live commentator on the Arab satellite channel ART broadcasting all World Cup matches in the region abruptly cut short his trademark "goooaaaaaaal!" when Pantsil brought out the flag.

"What are you doing, man?" the bewildered commentator said.

Football's governing body FIFA said it had taken note of the flag-waving and that, although there was nothing in the rules to prevent it, it hoped not to see a repetition.