Augsburg (Germany) (AFP) – German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s spokesman on Monday condemned the claim by a right-wing politician that most Germans would not want footballer Jerome Boateng, whose father is Ghanaian, as their neighbour.

“This sentence, which has come out, is vile and sad,” Merkel’s spokesman Steffen Seibert told a press briefing in Berlin.

“Jerome Boateng summed it up when he said it’s sad that such things still occur.”

Seibert was reacting to a remark by Alexander Gauland, deputy leader of right-wing Alternative for Germany (AfD) party, who told a Sunday newspaper: “People find him good, but they don’t want to have a Boateng as a neighbour”. 

Boateng, who was part of the team that won the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, said he was saddened by the comments.

“I can only smile about it. In all honesty, it’s sad like something like that is said these days,” said Boateng, who was born in Berlin to a German mother and a Ghanaian father, after Germany’s 3-1 friendly defeat to Slovakia in Augsburg on Sunday.

“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.

“I think enough people have said something about it.” 

– ‘Jerome be our neighbour’ –

Germany fans in Augsburg made their feelings known about Gauland’s comments with banners around the stadium reading: “Jerome, move in next to us” or “Jerome, be our neighbour”, which the Bayern Munich star spotted.

“I think there were enough positive answers in the stadium. I saw a few placards,” said Boateng.

There was plenty of support for the 27-year-old player from the German Football Association (DFB).

DFB president Reinhard Grindel condemned Gauland’s comments as “simply tasteless”, while the German team released a video under the motto “We are Diverse” showing the players’ faces together.

“We are a very diverse team,” said team manager Oliver Bierhoff.

“Such unqualified statements are therefore dismissed as what they are.

“It doesn’t bother Jerome, but it’s not pretty, because he is drawn into a discussion he doesn’t want to join.

Boateng is seen as an example of successful integration, as is fellow German-born international Mesut Ozil, who is of Turkish origin.

Ozil, a Muslim, recently published a picture of himself on a pilgrimage to Mecca.

Andrea Kersten, an AfD official in eastern Saxony state, on Monday took issue with that image.

Kersten accused Ozil, who plays for English side Arsenal, of sending “an anti-patriotic signal”.

Ozil was promoting an ideology in which “there is no equality between men and women.. where Jews and Christians are second-class citizens and where Sharia law is superior to democracy,” she said on the website of Die Welt daily.