Football: Tuchel defends Aubameyang after mask fiasco
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang's recent mask-wearing exploits landed him in hot water with Borussia Dortmund's bosses, but his coach Thomas Tuchel has leapt to the defence of the Gabon hot-shot.
"Such a sensitive human being like Auba is affected when so much is said and written about him -- even if he has himself to blame," said Tuchel.
"The goal in this situation, with it's background, was very important for us and Auba."
The goal Tuchel refered to was Aubameyang's 25th in as many league matches which sealed Tuesday's 3-0 win over Hamburg to make him the Bundesliga top-scorer, one ahead of Bayern Munich's Robert Lewandowski.
Tuchel made Aubameyang captain for the night against Hamburg with regular skipper Marcel Schmelzer injured.
The striker set up Shinji Kagawa for Dortmund's second, then netted his own goal just before the final whistle with an ice-cold finish after rounding Hamburg's goalkeeper.
Being handed the captain's armband was a show of faith after Dortmund's goal machine once again fell offside with Borussia's senior bosses on Saturday -- the "situation" and "background" Tuchel was referring to.
He donned a red-and-orange wrestling mask for his goal celebration in the 1-1 Ruhr derby draw at Schalke.
The problem is sportswear giants Puma own a five percent share in Dortmund and Aubameyang wore the same mask in an advert for private sponsor Nike.
Puma has called on Dortmund to take action, especially after Aubameyang had the Nike logo shaved into his hair last month -- which had already landed him in trouble with Borussia's CEO Hans-Joachim Watzke.
To make matters worse, Aubameyang picked up a yellow card in Gelsenkirchen for his masked celebration -- his third of the season -- and two more would see him banned for one league match.
The flamboyant striker has donned masks in the past to celebrate goals -- a spiderman headpiece in 2014 and a Batman one in 2015.
- Schmelzer criticism -
But while the superhero masks can be excused as harmless fun, the Nike one is part of a clear marketing strategy and German daily Bild claims the club will fine Aubameyang at least 50,000 euros ($53,317).
His team-mates are also not amused by the off-field disruption the mask caused ahead of next Tuesday's Champions League quarter-final first leg at home to Monaco and Saturday's Bundesliga clash at leaders Bayern Munich.
"We thought within the team that he'd come up with something for the derby, but the way it happened is, of course, stupid. No one had a clue," Dortmund captain Marcel Schmelzer told German daily Bild.
"We had already spoken to him, the club will talk to him once more and make it clear internally. Auba is already aware.
"We know what we have in him and he knows what he has with us.
"It's important that we don't lose the 'we' feeling and Auba knows that -- 100 percent," Schmelzer added.
Dortmund were in grave danger of conceding an equaliser against Hamburg on Tuesday until Aubameyang helped turn the game with an assist for Kagawa on 81 minutes before his injury time goal.
"I'm torn in how to sum up the game," said Tuchel.
"We had many clear chances, but also played negligently -- it was a rollercoaster ride."