Soccer-Spain hotel worker arrested for alleged hate crime against Morocco players

FILE PHOTO: Soccer Football - International Friendly - Morocco v Brazil - Grand Stade de Tanger, Tangier, Morocco - March 25, 2023 Morocco team huddle before the match REUTERS/Juan Medina

MADRID/CAIRO (Reuters) - A 27-year-old worker at a Madrid hotel hosting the Morocco team was arrested for an alleged hate crime after posting derogatory comments on Islam and racist slurs against the players on social media, Spanish police and the hotel said on Tuesday.

Local police told Reuters the employee, a waiter at the Spanish capital's five-star Eurostars Hotel Tower, asked players to take photographs with him. He then uploaded the images to Instagram with xenophobic insults and tagged the Moroccan team's account, with the post quickly receiving over 70,000 views.

The man is due to appear before a judge shortly, police said.

"We wish to offer our most sincere apologies in relation to the unfortunate, reprehensible and unacceptable comments of a racist and xenophobic nature," Hotusa, the group that owns the hotel, said in a statement.

The waiter was an external worker hired on an occasional basis and not part of the hotel's regular staff, the group said.

Asked about the incident, Morocco coach Walid Regragui referred to the ongoing holy period of Ramadan, known in the Islamic world as the month of forgiveness and tolerance.

"We do not accept racism, but we want to show that Islam is a religion of tolerance," Regragui told reporters. "We forgive this person in accordance with the requirements of the Islamic religion and the customs of Moroccan people."

He added the worker "made a mistake" and invited him to visit Morocco to "see the atmosphere between Muslims during Ramadan".

Morocco beat Brazil 2-1 last weekend to achieve the first ever victory for an Arab country over the five-times world champions who are top of the FIFA world rankings.

They also became the first Arab team to reach the World Cup quarter-finals last year and the first African side to make the semi-finals, beating Belgium, Spain and Portugal along the way.

(Reporting by David Latona and Emma Pinedo in Madrid, Osama Khairy and Shady Amir in Cairo; Editing by Ed Osmond)

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