German pundit faces backlash over ‘racist’ commentary on Qatari thobe

The move was seen by many as “disrespectful” to the Qatari culture and tradition.

German commentator Sandro Wagner has faced backlash for describing the traditional Qatari men’s clothing as “bathrobes”, a remark that has been slammed as “racist” by many on social media.

Wagner, also a former Germany forward, made the derogatory comment during German broadcaster’s ZDF live stream of Sunday’s World Cup match between Berlin and Madrid, the Associated Press (AP) reported.

“Only then did I realise that they are the Qatari bathrobes,” Wagner said during the 79th minute of the game, as quoted by the AP.

The traditional thobe is a long, white piece of attire with buttoned sleeves that men in Qatar and the rest of the Gulf commonly wear. 

Thousands of visitors in Qatar also embraced the thobe, with men from all over the world, mostly from the West, were seen donning the traditional attire while walking around the streets of Doha.

Wagner’s ignited an uproar on social media, as analysts and Qatari residents highlighted the underlying racism behind his remarks.

“When you are a racist and uncultured, arrogant and obnoxious the world doesn’t expect much from you. I am not surprised,” Fahad Al-Ameri, Qatari businessman, said in a tweet.

Separately, prominent analyst Dr. Andreas Krieg quote-tweeted the AP article saying, “Day-to-day racism in Germany”.

Meanwhile, the German broadcaster responded in a short statement to the outrage, saying his comments “occurred during an emotional phase of the game”.

“Sandro Wagner’s comments about the [thobe] unfortunately occurred during an emotional phase of the game. He’s not permitted [to say that]. We’ll talk about it,” it said, as quoted by the AP.

Wagner himself later apologised for his disparaging comments on the thobe, maintaining “it was a well-considered saying”.

“It was a well-considered saying with an inappropriate remark that I could have saved myself. If someone felt attacked – sorry, that was zero point zero my intention,” he said in a German statement, shared by ZDF.

Racism from the West has been a prominent feature of the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar, following a wider campaign targeting the host nation.

Most Western countries have been accused of applying double standards on the pitch as they continued to criticise Qatar’s human rights record while disregarding its major reform and progress.

Officials in Qatar have also pointed out that no other host nation of the World Cup faced the same level of scrutiny that Doha witnessed.

Last week, Germany’s team covered their mouths in their first World Cup game to protest FIFA’s banning the “One Love” LGBTQ+ solidarity armbands.

Qatari football fans later hit back at the team’s move by covering their mouths on Sunday while holding posters of former Germany player Mesut Ozil.

Ozil, a child of Turkish immigrants who was born in Germany, charged the nation’s football federation, supporters, and media with racism in their treatment of persons of Turkish ancestry. 

The football player was later shamed out of the team when he posed for a photo with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. The player had faced insults during the 2018 World Cup in Russia, forcing him to quit the team.

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