Interim national football coach Fandi Ahmad has apologised for his remarks during a press conference last week to a Sikh reporter, said the Football Association of Singapore (FAS).
In a statement posted on its website on Thursday, it said: "The FAS regrets that national team head coach Fandi Ahmad's comments during the pre-match press conference on 6 September 2018 for the match between Singapore and Mauritius have upset members of the Sikh community.
"Fandi and the FAS have contacted Mr Dilenjit Singh (The New Paper reporter) and the Sikh Advisory Board (SAB) to explain, apologise and clarify the matter. Mr Singh gracefully accepted our explanation and apology."
A petition on Change.org calling for the 56-year-old Fandi, an icon of local football, to apologise was started on Thursday. There were more than 700 signatures as of 3pm yesterday.
According to the petition, the reporter was said to have asked Fandi: "You said that in terms of skill and technique, some of our rivals in the region have overtaken us. How would that affect you wanting to play the good football which you are known for?"
Fandi's response, according to the petition started by Harvinder Singh, was: "We have not all bad... I can't condemn anybody because our system is different from others. I can't say it also, as it is against the Government. You know if I say it loud, you know, you will be seeing your turban would be gone.
"Seriously bro. I cannot say, I want to tell you. But later private I will tell you."
The petition noted: "What was also troubling was that there was a burst of laughter after the inappropriate comment was made."
The FAS also said in its statement: "Our discussion with the Sikh Advisory Board has also revealed that the comments could be hurtful to the Sikh community even though they were not made with any malicious intent.
"As such, the FAS has taken the opportunity to remind all our staff to be sensitive about all remarks made even in jest and accord to the highest level of professionalism and respect in engaging our stakeholders and the community at all times."
TNP reporter Dilenjit told The Straits Times he was not offended by the coach's remarks, adding: "Fandi came up to me right after the press con to apologise. I told him I had no issues and we laughed and shook hands."