Gary Lineker has been forced to apologise after accidentally ridiculing two Muslim footballers during a match commentary on TV.
When the players celebrated a goal by dropping to their knees and bowing their heads in the Islamic prayer position, Lineker said it looked as though they “ate grass”. The gesture is often used by Muslim players to celebrate.
He was commentating on Al Jazeera TV, which is mainly aimed at audiences in the Middle East and has a huge Islamic audience. Lineker, who is one of the BBC’s biggest faces in sport, has a clause in his contract that allows him to freelance for the other channel.
The gaffe was made during Wednesday night’s Champions League game between Schalke and Montpellier when discussing the French side’s opening goal.
He said: “A terrific effort from Karim Ait-Fana, who scored from just outside the area and then ate grass … as you do.” Viewers saw images of Ait-Fana, 23, and Younes Belhanda, 25, adopt the traditional Muslim prayer position, known as Sajda.
The comment attracted criticism online. One viewer wrote on Twitter: “Lineker’s comment about Muslims [is a] very stupid remark and [one of] sheer ignorance.” Another said: “I’m off to the mosque for Friday prayers shortly. Or ‘eating grass’ as Gary Lineker likes to call it.”