Boateng: German right-winger's neighbour comment 'sad'

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Jerome Boateng of GermanyImage source, Allsport/Getty
Image caption,
The remark about Jerome Boateng was widely seen as racist

German footballer Jerome Boateng has said comments by a right-wing politician that most Germans would not want him as a neighbour are "sad".

Fans at the German national team's match against Slovakia on Sunday held up banners in support of Boateng, whose father is Ghanaian.

Chancellor Angela Merkel's spokesman said Alternative fuer Deutschland (AfD) deputy leader Alexander Gauland's comment was "vile".

The AfD has apologised.

"I can only smile about it. In all honesty, it's sad like something like that is said these days," said Boateng, speaking after Sunday's 3-1 defeat for the national team.

"I am happy to be German, I'm proud or I wouldn't be here in the team. I believe I am well integrated and there is nothing more I need to say."

Image source, Allsport/Getty
Image caption,
"Jerome be our neighbour" read this banner at Sunday's match

After the row erupted, Mr Gauland said his remark did not reflect his own views and AfD leader Frauke Petry apologised for the "impression that has arisen".

She later tweeted: "Jerome Boateng is a super footballer who is rightly a member of the German national team. I'm looking forward to the European Championship."

However, on Monday another AfD politician criticised another German international footballer, Mesut Ozil.

Ozil, a Muslim of Turkish origin, had published a photograph on social media of himself on a pilgrimage to Mecca.

Image source, AFP/Getty
Image caption,
An AfD politician criticised Mesut Ozil for posting a picture of himself in Mecca

Andrea Kersten, an AfD official in Saxony, accused Ozil of sending "an unpatriotic signal".

In May, the party adopted an explicitly anti-Islam policy at a party conference, saying the religion was "not part of Germany".

The AfD was started three years ago with a Eurosceptic message and has attracted many voters who are angered by an influx of migrants and by Chancellor Merkel's pro-refugee approach.