Iker Casillas has since deleted the tweet, claiming his Twitter account was hacked.
CNN  — 

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’ll be 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 former wife, deleted the post shortly after it was sent and later apologized.

The original tweet came amid gossip within Spanish media which has linked Casillas to multiple women since his divorce.

“Hacked account. Luckily everything in order. Apologies to all my followers. And of course, more apologies to the LGBT community,” he wrote.

Puyol also later apologized in a Twitter post, writing: “I messed up. I apologise 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 of my respect and support for the LGBTIQA+ community.”

Casillas and Carles Puyol won multiple trophies for Spain, including the World Cup in 2010.

Adelaide United player Josh Cavallo, who came out as gay last year, says it was “disappointing” to see two icons of the game “joking” about the topic.

“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,” Cavallo wrote on Twitter, before Casillas claimed he was hacked.

“To see my role models and legends of the game make fun out 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 soccer more welcoming, after the initial posts attracted multiple homophobic comments.

“Yes, we’re on 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, ‘cause actually that’s the problem here.”

There are very few openly-gay men playing professional soccer and it comes at a time when the sport’s governing bodies say they are trying to make the game more inclusive.

Without referencing Casillas’ tweet directly, the Spanish sports council (CSD) posted a tweet on Sunday, showing its headquarters building adorned with rainbow decorations, that read: “Much to do, to move forward, to educate and to raise awareness. We’ll keep going.”