A far-right party in Germany has been widely criticised after one of its leading members made racist comments about footballer Jerome Boateng, a member of the national team.
Alexander Gauland, deputy chief of the Alternative for Germany (AfD) party, told the Sunday newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung (FAS) that Germans would not like to live next door to Boateng.
The 27-year-old Bayern Munich defender and member of the German national team has a Ghanaian father and was born and brought up in Berlin.
"People find him good as a footballer, but they don't want to have a Boateng as a neighbour," Gauland said.
On Sunday, Gauland attempted to backtrack.
"I have never, as the FAS insinuates, insulted Mr Boateng," he told German daily Bild. "I do not know him nor would I therefore have the idea to devalue him as a personality."
Yet, FAS put out a statement saying both of its reporters who interviewed 75-year-old Gauland in Potsdam on Wednesday had a record of his comments.
AfD party chief Frauke Petry tried to calm the storm, telling Bild that Gauland "cannot recall whether he made that statement".
"Independent of that, I apologise to Mr Boateng for the impression that arose," she said, before tweeting: "Jerome Boateng is a super footballer who is rightly a member of the German national team. I'm looking forward to the European championships."
'Boateng is my neighbour'
Nevertheless, Gauland's comments drew widespread condemnation by several top figures in German football and politics, as well as social media users.
The manager of the German national team, Oliver Bierhoff, said: "It isn't the first time that we've been confronted with such statements. They need no comment. The people who made them are simply discrediting themselves."
Footballer Benedikt Howedes, who won the 2014 World Cup alongside Boateng in the German team, wrote, "if you want to win the title for Germany, you need neighbours like him" alongside a picture of Boateng on Twitter.
Meanwhile, Bayern Munich chairman Karl-Heinz Rummenigge said racism should be eradicated.
"Discrimination of any kind has no place in sports and in our society. It deserves the red card," Rummenigge said.
German Justice Minister Heiko Maas criticised Gauland's comments as "unacceptable and shabby".
"People who say things like that unmask themselves, and not just as a bad neighbour," he wrote on Twitter.
Several social media users also took to Twitter to express their support for the footballer.
Source: Al Jazeera and agencies