Soccer-German FA boss apologises for Nazi reference to vice president

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BERLIN (Reuters) -The president of Germany's Football Association (DFB) Fritz Keller on Tuesday apologised publicly for making a Nazi reference when talking to his vice president in a meeting last week, saying it had been a "grave mistake."

Keller referred to vice president Rainer Koch, a civil judge, as "Freisler", a reference to prominent Nazi judge Roland Freisler, a participant at the 1942 Wannsee Conference where the Nazis laid out their "final solution" plan to exterminate the Jews.

Keller has had strained relations with several other senior DFB members, including Koch, who along with general secretary Friedrich Curtius were part of a tax evasion probe last year that included police raids on the association's headquarters.

"With my remark during the board meeting last Friday towards my first vice president Rainer Koch I committed a grave mistake," Keller said in a statement.

"I assumed that he would accept my apology, which I offered both in writing and by phone. This estimation was wrong," said Keller, who took over at the DFB in 2019.

Keller has also been locked in a power struggle with Curtius essentially since the start of his presidency, and has reportedly demanded that Curtius' contract be ended.

"At times of social rifts we should as footballers, after my foul, offer to shake hands and together provide a sign of reconciliation. I am happy that Rainer Koch is ready for joint discussions," Keller said.

Koch also sits on European soccer body UEFA's executive committee.

The DFB, the world's largest federation with more than 7 million registered members, has been rocked by a series of scandals in recent years that forced Keller's predecessors Reinhard Grindel and Wolfgang Niersbach to resign.

Germany is set to host the Euro 2024 championships.

(Reporting by Karolos Grohmann; Editing by Hugh Lawson)