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Former Real Madrid and Spain goalkeeper Iker Casillas has apologised to the LGBT community, claiming his official Twitter account had been hacked after a post earlier on Sunday read: “I hope you respect me – I’m gay.”

The message quickly gained traction on social media, racking up well over 100,000 likes before being deleted.

Among the thousands of replies was one from the verified account of Casillas’ former Spain team-mate and Barcelona defender Carles Puyol, which read: “It’s time to tell our story, Iker.”

Casillas, who made over 500 appearances for Real and led Spain to their first World Cup triumph in 2010, then clarified: “Hacked account. Luckily everything in order. Apologies to all my followers. And of course, more apologies to the LGBT community.”

Puyol also later apologised for what he called a “clumsy joke” but the tweets were met with widespread criticism.

Adelaide United midfielder Josh Cavallo, who announced in October 2021 that he was gay, becoming the only active male professional footballer in one of the world’s top leagues to do so, labelled the messages “beyond disrespectful”.

Posting before Casillas’ tweet claiming he was hacked, the 22-year-old Australian wrote: “@IkerCasillas and @Carles5puyol joking and making fun out of coming out in football is disappointing.

“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.”

Cavallo’s post was shared by Jake Daniels, the Blackpool forward who in May became the first current player in the UK to come out as gay since Justin Fashanu in 1990.

In a statement released to the PA news agency, equality campaigners Stonewall UK said: “It is disappointing to see homophobic ‘jokes’ being made at the expense of LGBTQ+ players and fans.

“Whatever their intent, our words matter. At Stonewall, we’ll continue to fight for a better world where LGBTQ+ people can play the sports we love as ourselves.”

Casillas, 41, left Real to join Porto in 2015. He suffered a minor heart attack in 2019 and announced his retirement from professional football in August the following year.