Carles Puyol has apologised after replying to a tweet from Iker Casillas in which it seemed the Real Madrid icon was coming out as gay.
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On Sunday, a tweet posted from Casillas' official Twitter account read: "I hope you respect me: I'm gay," but was later deleted after it caused a huge stir online, intensified by a reply from ex-Barca defender Puyol.
In response, the legendary centre-back wrote: "The time has come to tell our story, Iker", attached with images of the former Spain internationals celebrating together.
As fans reacted on social media with varying takes, Casillas' tweet was swiftly removed. The ex-Porto goalkeeper later claimed that his account had been hacked, although certain Spanish publications believe otherwise.
"Hacked account. Luckily everything in order. Apologies to all my followers. And of course, more apologies to the LGBT community," Casillas wrote in apology.
It was reported that Casillas made the tweet ironically after media houses had constantly speculated about his love life in recent weeks, but it was a post that led to off-colour homophobic jokes online just two months before the FIFA World Cup is hosted in a country in which homosexuality is a crime.
Puyol, meanwhile, later apologised via his Twitter account, describing his actions as "clumsy", according to the Daily Mirror.
"I have made a mistake. Sorry for a clumsy joke with no bad intentions and totally out of place," he wrote.
"I understand that it may have hurt sensitivities. All my respect and support for the LGTBIQA+ community."
As several high-profile journalists around the world weighed in, Josh Cavallo, the first professional men's footballer to come out as gay, took to Twitter to reveal his disappointment with Casillas and Puyol's behaviour.
"Iker Casillas and Carles Puyol joking and making fun out of coming out in football is disappointing," he wrote.
"It's a difficult journey that any LGBTQ+ ppl have to go through.
"To see my role models and legends of the game make fun out of coming out and my community is beyond disrespectful."
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