LONDON - A former British footballer has apologized for offending Muslims worldwide after describing a prayer celebration by Muslim players as eating grass.
I'm sorry but I'm not aware of every player's religion, Gary Lineker wrote on his Twitter account.
Lineker was a guest speaker at the Doha-based Al-Jazeera television to comment on a football game between Montpellier of France and Germany's Schalka in the UEFA Champions League.
The game ended in a 2-2 draw, in which two Muslim players; Karim Ait-Fana and Younes Belhanda scored for the French team, Al-Arabiya reported.
Celebrating the goals, the two Muslim players prostrated to the ground.
Commenting on the celebration, Lineker, now a sports broadcaster for the BBC as other sports channels, said the two Muslim players were eating grass.
"A terrific effort from Karim Ait-Fana, who scored from just outside the area and then ate grass...as you do," the retired footballer said.
The offensive remark has sparked angry among viewers, with many writing angry comments on Lineker's account.
The world's largest football news website, Goal.com, was also flooded with complaints from readers, who accused the British footballer and former Tottenham striker of cultural and religious insensitivity.
The BBC distanced itself from sports presenter's quip, saying the matter only concerned Al-Jazeera, the channel he was working for at the time.
Muslim fans have criticized the British footballer for offending their religious sensitivities.
It's a stupid remark and sheer ignorance, Ajmal Masroor, a London-based imam, was quoted by Goal.com as saying.
This is very unprofessional from a football legend who is supposed to be a role model.
The players are not asking anyone else to join in their worship they are making a gesture in thanks to God -- saying they are eating grass' is outrageous, imam Masroor said.
I am stunned -- seeing this makes me sick.
Muslims players often prostrate to the ground to thank Allah after every goal.
The majority of Muslim jurists agree on the permissibility of offering sujud ash-shukr to express gratefulness to Allah as He showers His bounties explicitly and implicitly on man.
According to Muslim scholars, such type of sujud, one prostration only, is an aspect of thanksgiving.With a growing number of Muslim players and converts in the UEFA Champions League, prostration is longer a strange scene in the European fields.