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AFC sorry for sand monkeys comment
Socceroos captain Lucas Neill challenges UAE's Khamis Mahmoud during a friendly in Dubai last year. Pic: Getty Images

The Asian Football Confederation has apologised for racist remarks it made about the United Arab Emirates national team, referring to them as "sand monkeys", a statement on the AFC website says.

The "AFC apologises for an editorial mistake in which the UAE National Team was inadvertently referred to by an inaccurate nickname on the AFC's official website".

It said the comment was due to an "error, which was mainly because of referral to a popular web-based encyclopaedia" and that it "was corrected immediately after it was noticed".

The AFC said it was sorry for "any hurt this might have caused to the UAE Football Association and UAE football fans".

The apology came just a day after the UAE football federation publicly accused the AFC of racism and demanded an apology.

"We express our strong resentment over the use of this bad description by the AFC website," the UAE federation secretary-general Yusuf Abdullah said in a statement.

"What happened is unacceptable and shows disrespect to others. It is proof of racist attitudes that are starting to surface," he said, demanding "a quick official apology".

The UAE football team is usually referred to as "Al-Abyad", or the whites, after the colour of their strip.

But an AFC report on a friendly between the UAE and Uzbekistan on Friday described the team of the desert Gulf state as "sand monkeys".

The UAE official said his federation "reserves the right to act to stop such an irresponsible racist behaviour".