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Croatia federation chief sorry over gay comments

10 November 2010 19:09

ZAGREB (AFP) - The head of the Croatian Football Federation Vlatko Markovic apologised Wednesday after sparking outrage for saying he would never sanction the selection of a gay player for the national team.

"I apologise to all those who were hurt by parts of my interview," to the Vecernji List daily, he said in a statement on the federation's website.

Markovic was widely condemned after telling Sunday's edition of the newspaper that it would be impossible for an openly gay player to be picked as long as he headed the federation.

Asked during the interview whether he had ever met a gay football player, Markovic replied: "No, fortunately football is only played by healthy people."

In his statement on Wednesday, the 73-year-old said he was "sorry that my comments have been in any way misinterpreted".

"My intention was in no way to insult or offend anyone ... I have absolutely nothing against members of any minority, especially not against those of homosexual orientation," he said.

Markovic, a former leading player and coach, has headed the federation since 1998.

Croatian society is still largely conservative and the powerful Catholic Church has publicly labeled homosexuality a "handicap" and a "perversion".

Almost 88 percent of the former Yugoslav republic's population of 4.4 million are Roman Catholics.

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