Saudi religious scholar says football governing body should stamp out Christian gestures

Mohammed al Arefe demanded the world football governing body step in to outlaw the prayer symbol.

The university religion professor who has a massive following in Saudi Arabia made his call on Twitter to 17.4million people.

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But it has received a backlash from footy fans pointing out Muslim players regularly make religious gestures on the pitch.

Al Arefe wrote: “I’ve seen video clips of athletes, soccer players running, shooting and when they win they make the symbol of the cross on their chests and my question is do FIFA’s rules not forbid this.”

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Critics responded by saying the same thing is often done by Muslim players.

Pointing to the Roma player, Sultan Alhusni said: “Mohamed Salah and others kneel to pray when they score a goal and no one punishes them.

“Leave the sport to those who deal with it.”

Meanwhile, controversy erupted after Real Madrid agreed to remove a Christian cross symbol from its kits on sale in the Middle East.

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The Spanish club, which is sponsored by Dubai-based Emirates airline, has its kits made by a company named Marka in the region.

Marka’s Vice Chairman Khaled al-Mheiri said: “We have to be sensitive to other parts of the Gulf that are quite sensitive to products that hold the cross”.