Martin Hinteregger has announced his retirement from football at the age of 29, just two weeks after links to neo-Nazi figure emerged.
His resignation comes after fierce backlash as a result of reported connections with far-right political figure Heinrick Sickl.
The center-back had a year left on his contract with Eintracht Frankfurt, who described the decision as ‘unexpected’ and ‘painful’. Hinteregger has since distanced himself from Sickl.
He said: ‘In the past few weeks, a number of issues have arisen around my ‘Hinti Cup’, which I have run with passion and the best intentions, the implications of which have only become clear to me in retrospect.
‘Some emotional and perhaps ill-advised words from me have caused irritation and I would like to apologise for that. I regret that very much.
‘To make it clear once again: I condemn right-wing, intolerant and inhuman ideas in the strongest possible terms. Those who know me know that.’
Martin Hinteregger announced his retirement from football at the age of just 29
He played 67 games for Austria and was part of the side knocked out by Italy at Euro 2020
The Hinti Cup is a youth tournament set up by the former Austria international and his former business partner Sickl, and took place earlier in June before the revelation that Sickl was a former member of the Austrian neo-Nazi movement in the 1990s.
Sickl has also rented property to the controversial Identitarian Movement Austria, which opposes mulitculturalism and advocates ethnopluralism.
Musicians DJ Ötzi and Frankfurt rapper Vega, a member of the Eintracht Frankfurt fan group Ultras Frankfurt 97, were scheduled to perform at the tournament against the backdrop of Albeck castle.
Hinteregger (right) won five Austrian Bundesliga titles in six senior seasons with RB Salzburg
Hinteregger took to Instagram to insist he was unaware of Sickl’s past, saying: ‘It is unbelievable that an unknown person can say such things about me.
‘Like the Sickl family, I am rooted in Sirnitz — I wanted to show my appreciation and say thank you to the fans, patrons and supporters from my childhood with the ‘Hinti Cup.’
‘I have no knowledge of past or future activities on the part of the Sickl family — I just want a soccer tournament to take place and nothing more.
Hinteregger took to Instagram to distance himself from claims he knew of Sickl’s links
‘Any business relationship with the Sickl family will be terminated with immediate effect due to the current state of knowledge, and the event ‘Hinti Cup’ will be examined alternatively to clarify a further course of action.’
‘I have friends all over the world through my time in professional soccer and also privately, and clearly reject accusations that I am right-wing oriented, and continue to stand up against any kind of discrimination!’
Hinteregger was part of the Eintracht Frankfurt side that won the Europa League this season and played 36 times for the Bundesliga outfit scoring once.
However, Hinteregger revealed that he had considered retirement earlier in the season, after a poor start to 2021/22.
The Austrian was part of the Eintracht Frankfurt side to beat Rangers to win the Europa League
He said: ‘Last autumn, I’d already started to think about retiring at the end of the season. I was in a difficult period on the pitch: my performances were shaky.
‘The wins didn’t feel as good anymore, and every defeat hurt twice as much. My improvement in the spring and our joint successes in the Europa League made me even more motivated to bow out with a great sporting success.
‘That’s why I enjoyed the Europa League victory so much, because I already knew it would be my last big victory celebration with the fantastic fans in this city, which has become my second home.
In 136 games for the Bundesliga side, Hinteregger scored 14 goals and contributed six assists
‘I will think back on my time with Eintracht with only great gratitude and joy, continue to feel closely connected to the club and their fans, and support the team as a fan on their continued journey in Europe.
‘I thank my team-mates, the coaching staff, the backroom staff, all the employees and the sporting management for the faith, the support and the wonderful time I’ve experienced here.
‘Above all I thank the fans, who have always been behind me, including and especially in difficult times.’
Frankfurt sporting director Markus Krösche welcomed Hinteregger’s stance but was nonetheless surprised at the player’s early retirement decision.
He said: ‘Martin’s decision came unexpectedly, but he has presented his reasons to us clearly and convincingly.
Therefore, it was the obvious choice to grant his wish, which is painful for us from a sporting point of view, but personally understandable.
‘Martin will always be welcome in Frankfurt, not just as a proven player and European Cup winner, but also due to his sincere apology for his behavior in recent days and weeks, and for his clear and convincing distancing from far-right ideology.’
According to reports, the former Austria center-half will now play as a center forward for his hometown amateur side.
He previously earned praise for discussing depression and mental health in his autobiography