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Arsenal star Lukas Podolski in Adidas animal heart controversy

Sports company Adidas has courted controversy by using a real animal heart in an advert using Arsenal and Germany star Lukas Podolski.

The ad shows the player clutching a bloody cow's heart in his fists with the slogan: 'During the World Cup, I will give my heart to the cause.'

But it has been met with a storm of protests from animal rights activists about the use of the heart.

A spokesman for German animal rights group Four Paws said: 'He says he'd give his heart but it wasn't his heart was it? It was the heart of an innocent animal. If this was supposed to be some sort of PR stunt, then it misses the point.

'It's bad enough that animals are slaughtered for food but to parade a heart, dripping blood and gore, is hardly a good way to advertise a sporting goods firm.'

The team had been full of optimism when coach Joachim Loew took his squad to a luxury, five-star hotel in St Leonhard, Italy, to prepare for their World Cup Group G campaign, which starts on June 16 against Portugal.

Arsenal's German striker Lukas Podolski plays against Montpellier at the Emirates Stadium in London (AFP)Arsenal's German striker Lukas Podolski plays against Montpellier at the Emirates Stadium in London (AFP)

But Borussia Dortmund defender Kevin Grosskreutz caused a scandal just before the bootcamp began, by urinating in the foyer of a Berlin hotel after the German Cup final, the same match where captain Philipp Lahm and goalkeeper Manuel Neuer picked up injuries.

Then Loew was hit with a six-month driving ban after he had collected 18 points on his license – earning him an automatic suspension.

 

[Banned Germany coach Loew promises go-slow]

 

A 63-year-old German was then left seriously injured after being hit by a car driven by professional racer Pascal Wehrlein, 19, with Germany centre-back Benedikt Hoewedes as his passenger during a PR stunt for German car firm Mercedes-Benz.

Team manager Oliver Bierhoff said Hoewedes and attacking midfielder Julian Draxler, who witnessed the crash, had needed treatment from the team’s psychologist.

Germany manager Joachim Loew was hit with a six-month driving ban (Rex Features)Germany manager Joachim Loew was hit with a six-month driving ban (Rex Features)

Now the stunt with the cow's heart has caused a further split amongst fans, after the photo was uploaded onto the Arsenal player's Instragram account.

The Arsenal striker however, defended the ad, saying: 'I don't find it disgusting. It just shows my promise to give my heart in our bid to win the World Cup. I and the rest of the team will give it all for Germany.'

 

[Soccer-Germany's Lars Bender out of World Cup with thigh injury]

 

The Germans have been drawn in a strong World Cup group alongside Ghana, Portugal and the USA, although the three-time winners are the favourites to successfully make it through to the next round.

Podolski, 28, has already participated in two World Cup tournaments, and is expected to feature in the Germany starting XI this summer following a strong campaign for Arsenal last season.