Gary Lineker has been forced to apologise after joking that two footballers who adopted the Islamic prayer position to celebrate a goal were “eating grass”.
Lineker made the gaff while presenting Wednesday night’s Champions League match between Schalke and Montpellier for Al Jazeera – a station aimed a predominantly Muslim, Middle Eastern audience.
Discussing the French side’s opening goal, Lineker said: “A terrific effort from Karim Ait-Fana, who scored from just outside the area and then ate grass...as you do.”
The celebration, which is popular with Muslim players and has been seen in the Premier League a number of times, is known as the Sajda pose.
But the 51-year-old BBC Match of the Day presenter claimed he had no idea of the religious connotations of the move when he made his widely criticised remarks.
Writing on his website, Lineker said: “I’m sorry but I’m not aware of every player’s religion.”
Twitter users were quick to condemn Lineker’s original comment – made while he was worker as a freelance presenter outside of his BBC contract.
Hundreds of tweets were posted in the days after the incident, with one viewer writing “Lineker’s comment about Muslims [is a] very stupid remark and [one of] sheer ignorance.”
Another viewer took a more light-hearted approach to condemning the joke, saying: “I'm off to the mosque for Friday prayers shortly. Or ‘eating grass’ as Gary Lineker likes to call it.”