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Steffen Freund apologizes for racist TV comments

November 30, 2020

The former Germany international has apologized for suggesting that Amine Harit and Nabil Bentaleb's heritage could explain alleged attitude issues. The pair are currently suspended by their club, Schalke.

DFB-Pokal Viertelfinale Eintracht Frankfurt - SV Werder Bremen | Steffen Freund - Fussball experte und TV Moderator
Image: Revierfoto/dpa/picture alliance

Former Germany international Steffen Freund has apologized for comments he made on a Sunday morning television talk show in which he suggested that the North African heritage of Schalke players Amine Harit and Nabil Bentaleb could explain their characteristics and attitude.

Harit, who is of French-Moroccan heritage, and Bentaleb, who is of French-Algerian heritage, are both currently suspended by Schalke as the floundering Bundesliga side struggle with problems on and off the pitch. Schalke were beaten 4-1 by Borussia Mönchengladbach this weekend, extending their winless run to 25 games.

Commenting on the suspensions on the "Doppelpass" football show on Sport1 on Sunday morning, Freund, who made 53 Bundesliga appearances for Schalke as a player and also played for Borussia Dortmund and Tottenham Hotspur, said of Bentaleb:

"He is one of the best players but he is of French-Algerian heritage … if they have a squad planner, they should know that it can quickly lead to a certain aggression and lack of discipline if he doesn't play."

Referring also to Harit, he said that "every player must be ready to pour his heart out for the club … but of course he can't given his roots."

As a clip of Freund's comments spread on social media, Bentaleb himself responded, saying sarcastically: "When it's said with so much finesse … class, Steffen."

Meanwhile, Schalke's official Twitter account posted: "Harit's and Bentaleb's suspension has nothing to do with their roots! Such decisions fundamentally do not have anything to do with heritage."

Freund attempted to explain his remarks later on in the program, insisting that they were not meant to be racist but arguing that heritage plays a role "in terms of how you grow up and what your mentality is."

Later, he took to Twitter, writing: "Everybody who knows me and has followed my career knows that I abhor every form of racism. Of course, neither skin color, religion or heritage determine a player's performance.

"Nobody is more annoyed than me that I expressed myself so mistakeably. I would like to sincerely apologize."

It's not the first time that guests on "Doppelpass," a popular, long-running show filmed in the Hilton Hotel at Munich Airport and aired every Sunday morning, have made controversial comments.

As recently as September, Guido Schäfer, a journalist with the Leipziger Volkszeitung newspaper, explained Borussia Dortmund's loss to Mainz at the end of last season by suggesting that the players had suffered from "menstruation problems." Schäfer also apologized, as did the show's producers.