FORMER Real Madrid and Spain goalkeeper Iker Casillas was today keeping quiet about a controversial tweet he posted and then deleted on Sunday in which he apparently came out as gay. 

“I hope I’ll be respected: I’m gay,” read the tweet, which quickly went viral and was soon picked up by national and international media as a genuine coming out of the closet by the 41-year-old. 

But right from the start there were doubts about whether or not the message was genuine, or could in fact be in response to speculation in the Spanish press that he was in a relationship with a woman called Alejandra Onieva. 

Former Barcelona and Spain player Carles Puyol also drew widespread scrutiny for a message he left in response to Casillas’s tweet, saying: “It’s time to tell them about us, Iker,” followed by a heart and a kiss emoji. 

Just a couple of hours later, the original tweet had been deleted, with Casillas claiming his account had been hacked and saying “everything is in order”. He nonetheless asked for forgiveness from all of his followers and to “the LGBT community”. 

Puyol, meanwhile, also apologised on Twitter for a “clumsy joke without any ill intention”, and expressed his “respect and support” for the LGBTQ+ community. 

The incident drew widespread condemnation from commentators, sports authorities and rights activists alike. 

The Spanish National Sports Council published a tweet on Sunday that read: “A lot to do, to advance, to educate and to raise awareness. We will continue.”

The message was accompanied by a picture of the Council headquarters adorned with rainbow flags, a symbol of the LGBTQ+ community. 

Josh Cavallo, an Australian football player who came out as gay last year, posted a message on Twitter saying that Casillas and Puyol “joking and making fun of coming out in football is disappointing. It’s a difficult journey that any LGBTQ+ people have to go through.”

Despite the furore, Casillas made no further reference to either the message or the alleged hacking of his account on Monday. He posted a message saying “Let’s start the week,” accompanied by a music video, and then a selfie in a lift with a suitcase with the text: “It’s time to take a long journey,” with the hashtag “have a great week”.

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