A top Italian football player has issued an apology for saying that he hopes that there are no gay players in the national team.
Antonio Cassano (29) made the comment at an Italian national football press conference on Tuesday.
The forward was asked about claims that there are two metrosexual and two gay players on the team.
He replied by first asking, “What’s a metrosexual?” and then went on to say, “If I say what I think… I hope there are none. But if there are queers here, that’s their business”.
Following a furore over his statement, including protests from LGBT rights groups, Cassano issued an apology on the Italian Football Federation website.
“I sincerely regret that my statements have sparked controversy and protest from gay rights groups,” he said.
“Homophobia is a sentiment that is not mine. I did not want to offend anyone and I cannot question the sexual freedom of other people. I only said that it is a problem that does not concern me and it is not for me to pass judgment on the choices of others, who are all respected.”
Meanwhile, Codacons, an Italian consumer association, has urged “all gays who feel offended by Cassano’s words” to demand “compensation for the moral damage” he caused.
It added: “Our lawyers are ready for a class action.”
Swedish footballer Anton Hysen, who came out as gay last year, responded with sadness at Cassano’s comment.
“I don’t understand how a role model such as Antonio Cassano can say something like that. It is sad and I don’t understand how someone who is playing at that level can say something like that. He is a big name in the game and a role model for others. It is not good.” he told Swedish newspaper Aftonbladet.
Hysen called on the Italian Football Federation to look into the incident.