Berlin - Bayern Munich returned from a training camp in the Middle East to a barrage of criticism over a friendly played in Saudi Arabia, with some politicians and fans claiming the club had turned a blind eye to human rights violations.
The German champions, a leading global soccer brand, spent just over a week at a training camp in Qatar earlier this month before playing a friendly against Al-Hilal in Saudi Arabia on Saturday and returning to Germany a day later.
Qatar, which will stage the 2022 World Cup, has been under scrutiny over widespread reports of human rights violations against migrant workers building stadiums for the tournament.
Bayern's game in Saudi Arabia also coincided with the uproar over the flogging in the country of activist and blogger Raif Badawi.
"Sport has a strong voice but it does not use it at the points where it makes sense and can be helpful," Social Democratic Party MP and head of the parliamentary committee on sport Dagmar Freitag told Sueddeutsche Zeitung on Tuesday.
"Footballers don't have to be politicians but they should be aware of human rights conditions and could set examples."
The Greens spokesman for sports politics issues, Oezcan Mutlu MP, said Bayern should never have played the game in Saudi Arabia.
"I find this behaviour shameful. Unnecessary. There is no honour to have a friendly game in Riyadh when, so to speak, right next to the stadium the blogger Radawi is flogged 1,000 times and has his skin pulled off his back," Mutlu told reporters.
Bayern, one of the richest clubs in the world, with a turnover of more than 500 million euros, said the Saudi Arabia game was a sponsored event by one of its commercial partners while the Qatar trip offered perfect working conditions for the Bundesliga leaders.
Bayern coach Pep Guardiola was also a vocal supporter of Qatar's bid to land the 2022 World Cup.
The trip also caused consternation among some Bayern fans with one of them sharply criticising the club's decision to train in the Gulf during the winter break.
"Even if Bayern does not determine the politics in Saudi Arabia and Qatar, its presence there legitimises it," a Bayern member, signing under the Twitter handle @agitpopblog said in an open letter sent to club officials.