Netherlands legend Marco van Basten has apologised for being caught on live television saying “sieg heil” – an infamous Nazi salute.
Prior to Heracles’ Eredivisie match with Ajax on Saturday, Fox presenter Hans Kraay was interviewing Heracles coach Frank Wormuth in German, though his command of the language left something to be desired in the eyes of the former Ajax and AC Milan striker, who retorted: “Sieg heil, not so beautiful, pancake.”
The comment sparked controversy as the words “sieg heil” was a greeting that was used in Nazi Germany before and during World War II.
“I didn’t mean to shock people, I just wanted to ridicule Hans’ German, but I’m sorry,” the analyst said.
Van Basten’s attempted quip was particularly poorly timed as clubs in the Netherlands had been asked to make statements against racism this weekend in the wake of Ahmad Mendes Moreira being abused by Den Bosch supporters.
That incident prompted widespread protests against racism from players, who elected to stand still for the opening minute of each match played in the top two tiers this weekend.
"It is intended to make fans aware that football belongs to everyone, regardless of cultural background, religion or sexual preference," read an Eredivisie statement.
Meanwhile, clubs were asked to display the slogan: “Racism? Then we don’t play football!” on screens around stadiums.
"These initiatives also strengthen us in the discussions we have with politicians and our social partners," read a KNVB statement.
"Because only together can we tackle this social problem properly. Racism is disgusting and does not belong in football. Racism must go out of the world."
Fox Sports released a statement on the Van Basten incident, indicating that the comment was inappropriate “not just today, but every day”.
As a player, Van Basten was known for his prolific scoring at all levels, helping Milan to European Cup glory in both 1989 and 1990.
He was also a major star at international level, scoring a famous volley from an acute angle in the 1988 European Championship final, the sole major competition the Netherlands have won.
Meanwhile, Ajax won their fixture with Heracles on Saturday 4-1 to strengthen their grip of top spot in the Eredivisie.