Former Real Madrid and Spain goalkeeper Iker Casillas says his Twitter account was hacked after receiving widespread criticism for posting a tweet claiming he was gay.
In a now-deleted post on his official Twitter account, Casillas wrote on Sunday: “I hope I’m respected: I’m gay.”
In response, former Barcelona captain Carles Puyol replied: “The time has come to tell our story, Iker.”
Casillas, who has two children with his ex-wife, deleted the post shortly after it was posted and later apologized.
The original tweet came amid Spanish media gossip linking Casillas with several women since the divorce.
“Hacked account. Fortunately everything is fine. Apologies to all my followers. And of course more apologies to the LGBT community,” he wrote.
Puyol also later apologized on a Twitter mail, writes: “I messed up. I apologize for a clumsy joke that wasn’t malicious at all, but was totally out of order.
“I understand that I could have hurt people’s feelings. All my respect and support for the LGBTIQA+ community.”
Adelaide United player Josh Cavallo, who came out as gay last year, says it was “disappointing” to see two icons of the game “joke” about the subject.
“Joking and making fun of coming out in football is disappointing. It is a difficult journey that every LGBTQ+ person must go through,” Cavallo further wrote Twitterbefore Casillas claimed he was hacked.
“Seeing my role models and legends in the game make fun of coming out and my community is beyond disrespectful.”
Atalanta midfielder Marten de Roon also said the incident highlighted the work that needs to be done to make football more welcoming, after the initial posts attracted several homophobic comments.
“Yes, we are at the top of the league (for now). More importantly, social media today still shows how far from reality we are,” he tweeted.
“Whether Casillas was hacked or not: I see too many posts that are far off. Waiting for the day this wouldn’t be news, because that’s actually the problem here.”
There are very few openly gay men playing professional football, and it comes at a time when the sport’s governing bodies say they are trying to make the game more inclusive.
Without directly referring to Casillas’ tweet, the Spanish Sports Council (CSD) posted a tweet on Sunday, showing its headquarters building adorned with rainbow decorations, which read: “A lot to do, to move forward, to educate and raise awareness. We continues.”