May 16 – German Football Association (DFB) Vice President Hermann Winkler issued an apology on Monday for a social media post that mocked the visit of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to Berlin. During Zelensky’s visit, central parts of Berlin were under security lockdown.
Winkler, who heads the Saxony Football Association in eastern Germany, expressed his frustration about road closures and security restrictions, remarking that “at least the Soviet Memorial in Treptower Park is still standing for now.”
He also referred to the city shutting down for the visit of a “former Ukrainian actor,” highlighting Zelensky’s previous career.
The Treptower Park memorial is dedicated to fallen Soviet soldiers during World War Two, and Winkler’s upbringing in East Germany, a satellite state of the Soviet Union, likely influenced his comment.
The DFB deemed Winkler’s remarks unacceptable and announced that the issue would be discussed at a meeting of regional association heads following a conversation between DFB boss Bernd Neuendorf and Winkler.
Neuendorf made it clear that Winkler’s comments regarding President Zelensky were deemed offensive and incompatible with the DFB’s principles.
Winkler has since deleted his post and offered an apology. He explained that the post was made in an emotional moment at the Treptower Park memorial, and he expressed regret for the wording and the resulting confusion it caused.
Zelensky’s visit to Berlin was part of a rapid weekend tour of several key European allies to seek military and financial support ahead of an anticipated major Ukrainian counter-offensive against Russian forces, which invaded Ukraine the previous year.
Winkler has been a DFB vice president since 2021 and is responsible for youth football. In addition to his role in the Saxony Association, he also leads the Northeastern German Football Association. Germany is set to host the Euro 2024 competition.
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