Soccer-German FA official apologises for post mocking Zelenskiy's visit

Ukraine's President Zelenskiy is awarded Germany's Charlemagne Prize

BERLIN (Reuters) -German Football Association (DFB) Vice President Hermann Winkler on Monday apologised for a social media post mocking the visit of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy to Berlin.

Zelenskiy had talks with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz on Sunday, with many parts of central Berlin locked down for security reasons during his visit.

Winkler, who heads the Saxony Football Association in the east of the country, had complained about road closures and other security restrictions, saying "at least the Soviet Memorial in Treptower Park is still standing for now".

He said the city had shut down for the visit "of a former Ukrainian actor." Zelenskiy was an actor prior to his election.

The Treptower Park memorial is a monument to fallen Soviet soldiers in Germany during the World War Two. Winkler grew up in what was then East Germany, a satellite state of the Soviet Union.

The DFB said his comments were unacceptable and the issue would be raised at a meeting of regional association heads after the discussion DFB boss Bernd Neuendorf had with Winkler.

"In this discussion Neuendorf made it very clear that Winkler's comments regarding Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskiy were received as unbearable and offensive," the DFB said in a statement.

"He considers Winkler's approach as incompatible with the DFB's basic principles. Neuendorf will raise the issue of this incident at next Wednesday's regional federation presidents' meeting."

Winkler, who has since deleted his post, apologised.

"It (the post) was created in a very emotional situation for me at the memorial in the Treptower Park," Winkler wrote on Facebook.

"I would not write it again in such a way. I apologise for that and for the irritation it caused."

Zelenskiy's visit formed part of a whirlwind weekend tour of several key European allies to drum up military and financial support ahead of an expected major Ukrainian counter-offensive against Russian forces who invaded his country last year.

Winkler has been a vice president of the DFB, the world's biggest single sports organisation with more than seven million members, since 2021.

He is in charge of youth football for the DFB and apart from the Saxony Association, is also head of the Northeastern German Football Association.

Germany will host the Euro 2024 competition.

(Reporting by Karolos Grohmann; Editing by Nick Macfie)