Online debate raged in Germany on Wednesday after supporters of anti-Islam group Pegida criticised a confectioner’s decision to print images of non-white football players on its chocolate bars instead of the usual picture of a blond-haired, blue-eyed boy.
Italian confectionery group Ferrero has temporarily changed the pictures on its ‘Kinder Schokolade’ (Children Chocolate) in Germany to celebrate the EURO 2016, which kicks off on June 10 in France.
The new packaging shows childhood pictures of players such as Jerome Boateng, son of a Ghanaian immigrant, and Ilkay Gundogan, whose parents were born in Turkey. It also includes white players such as Mario Goetze and Christoph Kramer.
On Twitter, the hashtag #Kinderschokolade was among those trending most in Germany on Wednesday.
Ferrero’s special edition packaging won praise from most users on the company’s official Facebook page, but it also drew criticism from some Pegida supporters.
“They will stop at nothing. Are they really being sold like that? Or is that a joke?” the account operator of Pegida BW Bodensee wrote in a post next to a picture of chocolate boxes with Boateng and Gundogan as children.
#Pegida-Anhänger wüten gegen Kinder-Schokolade: https://t.co/JNcoTC6fTq via
sternde</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/nopegida?src=hash">#nopegida</a> <a href="https://t.co/ve0dSnNJ4O">pic.twitter.com/ve0dSnNJ4O</a></p>— Matthias Meisner (MatthiasMeisner) 24 Μαΐου 2016
Commenting on the post, one user wrote: “The team, there is nothing national about it anymore.”
Pegida officially distanced itself from the comments, saying the account was not run by the group.
However, many social media users used the opportunity to show their support for the idea behind the Kinder campaign posting pictures of themselves as children under the hashtag #cutesolidarity.
Germany won the football World Cup in 1990 with an all-white team. The squad that won in 2014 included Boateng as well as Sami Khedira, whose father is Tunisian, and Mesut Ozil, grandson of a Turkish “Gastarbeiter” (guest worker).
Reinhard Grindel, head of the German football association DFB, said the Pegida supporters’ comments were distasteful.
“The German national football team is one of the best examples of successful integration and millions of people in Germany are proud of this team because it is as it is,” Grindel said.
A spokeswoman for Ferrero Germany said the company was strictly against any form of discrimination or xenophobia.
PEGIDA stands for Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamisation of the West. Its rallies drew tens of thousands of people last year, many waving German flags and chanting nationalist slogans, but its appeal has since waned as support has shifted to the anti-immigrant Alternative for Germany.