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Spanish TV channel says it will ‘stop working’ with pundit Germán Burgos following derogatory comment about Lamine Yamal

<i>Quality Sport Images/Getty Images via CNN Newsource</i><br/>Yamal is Barcelona's youngest debutant in La Liga.
Quality Sport Images/Getty Images via CNN Newsource
Yamal is Barcelona's youngest debutant in La Liga.

By Matias Grez, CNN

(CNN) — Spanish television channel Movistar Plus+ says it will “stop working” with pundit and former Atlético Madrid assistant coach Germán Burgos following a derogatory comment he made about 16-year-old Barcelona star Lamine Yamal.

Upon seeing images of Yamal juggling a football before Barcelona’s Champions League quarterfinal first-leg match against Paris Saint-Germain on Wednesday, Burgos said: “If it [his football career] doesn’t go well, he’ll end up at a traffic light.”

In Spain and Latin America, it’s not uncommon to see people sell small items or trinkets or juggle footballs – among other tricks – for money at traffic lights. Burgos is from Argentina, though he has spent much time in Spain as both a player and coach. He also played for Argentina’s national team.

His comments have been labeled “classist” and “racist” by commentators in Spanish, Catalan and Latin American media and reportedly led to Barcelona and PSG players boycotting interviews with Movistar Plus+ after Wednesday’s match.

“In agreement with the internal code of conduct of Movistar Plus+, which upholds a policy of zero tolerance with any kind of discriminatory behavior, the platform has taken measures after the events experienced last night, where one of our collaborators said inappropriate comments about the player Lamine Yamal,” the statement read.

“Movistar Plus+ and Germán ‘El Mono’ Burgos will stop working together in immediate form in the programs of the platform and the presenters of the space where the comments took place will be given a warning.”

Burgos issued an apology on Thursday.

“It was not my intention to harm Lamine Yamal in any way, the people of FC Barcelona, the players, UEFA, or the Movistar Plus+ platform where I work,” Burgos wrote on Instagram.

“When making my comment I chose to make a joke about quality and praise virtues, in no way was it about any ethnicity or social class.

“After spending so many years in football, I am excited to see young youth players. Above all, I admire the amount of new talent that Barça is producing because I believe that quality always triumphs in the end. I am a pro youth coach and in all the teams I have been at I have made sure to bring youngsters to train with the first team.

“I apologize to anyone who was offended by my comment. My intention was not to disparage Lamine Yamal, quite the opposite. Football unites everything and everyone, that is why it is the best sport since it does not discriminate based on sex, race, religion, disability, age or sexual orientation. This is what I believe!”

Movistar Plus+, too, had earlier issued an apology.

“With respect to the unfortunate comments from one of the collaborators of Movistar Plus+ in the preview of the UEFA Champions League match between PSG-FC Barcelona about the azulgrana player Lamine Yamal, the outlet apologizes publicly,” the channel said in a statement.

“Movistar Plus+ condemns any type of discrimination and will not allow these type of comments from any of its workers or collaborators tied to the platform. After what happened, the platform will take opportune measures to guarantee that these events don’t happen again.”

Regarding the two teams boycotting interviews, Movistar Plus+ presenter Ricardo Sierra said that “UEFA, PSG and Barça notified us that they weren’t going to attend to us because they were tremendously angry with a comment that came from our studio during the preview,” according to Spanish outlet Marca.

“As such, they weren’t going to do any interviews, we haven’t been lucky. I apologized from here. We should also do so from the studio.”

CNN has reached out to UEFA – European soccer’s governing body – Barcelona and Yamal’s agent. PSG declined to comment.

Barcelona beat PSG 3-2 in the first leg, with the return fixture taking place next week.

Just under a year ago, Yamal became Barcelona’s youngest debutant in La Liga at the age of 15 years, nine months and 16 days after he came as a substitute for Gavi during a 4-0 victory against Real Betis.

“Lamine doesn’t seem like a 15-year-old, he’s very mature,” said Barça head coach Xavi after Yamal’s debut. “He’s ready [to play] and he is training well. He can mark an era at this club as part of this team.”

On Thursday, Yamal’s father wrote on Instagram: “Good morning world. I just ask for respect for other people’s children. Thank you.”

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