The deputy leader of the hardline anti-immigration party Alternative für Deutschland (AfD) has been criticised for suggesting that his fellow Germans would not want Jérôme Boateng – one of the country's most prominent black footballers – as a neighbour. One of AfD's leaders has now been forced to apologise for the remarks, which were published in the FAZ newspaper on 29 May.
Gauland told the centre-right newspaper that "people like him as a football player, but they don't want to have a Boateng as their neighbour". Boateng, who is of joint German and Ghanaian descent, is being considered as a candidate to captain the national team at next month's European Championships.
The AfD moved swiftly to issue an apology after the comments were greeted with widespread anger across Germany. Gauland's boss Frauke Petry tweeted: "Jérôme Boateng is a great footballer and rightly part of the German national team. I am looking forward to the Euros. #Neighbours."
Gauland said that he had been inaccurately quoted by FAZ. In a statement, he said: "I don't know him [Boateng] and would never come up with the idea of denigrating his personality."
The president of the German Football Association, Reinhard Grindel, also hit out at Gauland, saying: "It's simply tasteless to abuse the popularity of Boateng and the national team for political slogans."
Boateng's international footballing colleagues also spoke out in his defence. Benedikt Höwedes, who played alongside the Bayern Munich player in Germany's title-winning team at the 2014 World Cup, tweeted: "If you want to win titles for Germany, you need neighbours like him. #Defence."
Likewise, his half-brother Kevin-Prince, who plays for Ghana and AC Milan, spoke up in English, telling Gauland to "shut up".
This is the second time Boateng has come in for racist abuse in recent days. The pan-European anti-immigrant group Pegida recently attacked the inclusion of a black boy on Kinder chocolate packaging – not realising that it was a picture of the footballer as a child.