Ghana Football Association Apologizes for Israeli Flag at World Cup Match

Hapoel Tel Aviv's John Paintsil pulled out Israeli flag when Ghana scored in victory over the Czech Republic.

Ghana's Football Association apologized Monday after Hapoel Tel Aviv defender John Paintsil pulled out an Israeli flag during celebrations over Saturday's 2-0 victory over the Czech Republic.

"It was an action out of naivete, and we apologize to anyone who was offended. It will never happen again," Ghana FA spokesman Randy Abbey said.

"He was obviously unaware of the implications of what he did ... He's extremely popular in Israel, and he wanted to thank the fans who traveled to see him play."

Paintsil, who is playing for Ghana in the World Cup, pulled out a small Israeli flag during a goal celebration at Cologne Stadium.

Abbey said that there had been complaints to the Ghana FA but did not elaborate.

"We're not here for politics," he said. "We don't support Israel or Arab nations ... It was unfortunate that the player was ignorant about the political situation."

Abbey added: "But he has apologized to us and I think the matter should end there."

Sports Minister Ophir Pines-Paz had been quoted as praising Paintsil for his actions and saying that Ghana had gained many Israeli fans.

"We have an Israeli at the World Cup. Paintsil's gesture has warmed our hearts and many Israelis have now become supporters of Ghana," Paz said.

But the gesture drew furious reactions in the Arab press.