France midfielder Ousmane Dembele on Monday apologised after a video emerged on social media of him appearing to denigrate Asian hotel employees on a tour of Japan by his club Barcelona.
Dembele offered his “sincere apologies” after a 42-second clip, which he appeared to have made on Snapchat in 2019, was leaked and widely shared on social media platforms.
It shows Dembele, on Barca’s preseason tour in July 2019, talking to team-mate Antoine Griezmann who is waiting for local technicians to hook up a game console to a television in their hotel room.
“All these ugly faces, just so you can play PES (Pro Evolution Soccer), aren’t you ashamed?” Dembele asks.
He then appears to mock the Japanese language before asking: “are you advanced in your country or not?”
Dembele, who is recovering from surgery after injuring his knee in France’s second group game at Euro 2021, said he regretted the incident.
“Recently a private video dating from 2019 has been circulating on social media. As it happens it is in Japan — it could have been anywhere on the planet and I would have used the same expressions. I wasn’t targeting any community,” the 24-year-old said on Instagram.
“The video has now gone public — I understand how it could have impacted the people present in those images and as such I offer them my sincere apologies.”
The video, first appeared on a YouTube account with only a handful of subscribers, but was then picked up on Twitter where it received more than 6,000 retweets under the hashtag #StopAsianHate.
Griezmann, who was also in hot water three years ago for appearing wearing blackface and dressed as a member of the Harlem Globetrotters for a party, insisted on Monday that he had always opposed “all forms of discrimination”.
He also apologised and insisted: “I am sorry if I offended my Japanese friends.”