Footballers suspended by clubs for 'unacceptable' social media posts on Israel-Gaza crisis

Split image. Left image: Youcef Atal. Right image: Anwar El Ghazi.
Youcef Atal (left) and Anwar El Ghazi have both been suspended by their club sides. Credit: AP

French football club Nice has suspended its defender Youcef Atal until further notice after he allegedly shared an antisemitic message on social media in relation to the Israel-Gaza crisis.

Earlier on Wednesday, German side Mainz suspended Dutch international Anwar El Ghazi for what it called an "unacceptable" social media post about the conflict in the Middle East.

Atal's suspension comes after the Nice public prosecutor's office opened a preliminary investigation on Monday, targeting him on charges "of defending terrorism" for sharing the message online.

The 27-year-old is also being investigated for "public incitement to hatred or violence because of a particular religion", the office said.

Nice said it had discussed the issue with Atal, who has since apologised and deleted the Instagram post.

In a statement, Nice said: "The player acknowledged his error by quickly withdrawing the sharing of the publication and has offered a written and public apology.

"Nevertheless, given the nature of the publication shared, and its seriousness, the club has made the decision to immediately take the first disciplinary measures against the player, prior to any action that may be taken by sporting and legal authorities.

Youcef Atal has since issued an apology and deleted the social media post. Credit: AP

"To this end, the club has decided to suspend Youcef Atal until further notice."

French Football Federation (FFF) President Philippe Diallo said Atal had relayed "appeals for violence" and that the case will be handled by the federation's ethics committee.

El Ghazi, meanwhile, has been relieved of his "training and matchday related duties", Mainz said in a statement.

"In the post, El Ghazi stated an opinion on the ongoing conflict in the Middle East that was deemed unacceptable by the club," a statement read.

"Prior to making this decision, the club and the player had engaged in an in-depth discussion."

The Bundesliga club did not specify what the social media post contained, nor whether the 28-year-old forward will return to play for the club.

El Ghazi has previously played for Premier League sides Aston Villa and Everton, and has been capped twice for his country.

Want a quick and expert briefing on the biggest news stories? Listen to our latest podcasts to find out What You Need To Know...