Croatia chief sorry for anti-gay remark

Updated: November 10, 2010, 9:25 AM ET
Associated Press

ZAGREB, Croatia -- The head of Croatian Football Federation apologized on Wednesday for saying in a newspaper interview that he would not allow a gay player on the national team.

Vlatko Markovic's remarks sparked protests in Croatia, with two gay rights groups planning to sue and complain to UEFA.

Markovic said in an interview with the Vecernji List newspaper published on Sunday that as long as he's in charge of the national soccer federation, a gay player "certainly" will not feature for Croatia.

Asked if he had ever encountered a gay soccer play, he replied: "No. Fortunately, only healthy people play football."

Markovic said he was "sorry for a clumsy interpretation. It was not my intention whatsoever to insult or hurt anyone."

Gay rights groups Kontra and Iskorak say on their websites that they will sue Markovic and report him to the Union of European Football Associations (UEFA), saying his remarks are "discriminatory" and violate Croatian and international laws.

"I have nothing against members of any minority, least of all against those of same-sex orientation," Markovic said in a statement on the Croatia soccer federation's website. "Once again, I apologize to all those who were hurt."

Croatian media reported on Wednesday that Markovic could be fined or suspended by the Croatia soccer federation, whose statute bans any act of discrimination, if it receives an official complaint.

UEFA says it is yet to open an investigation.

Former Croatia coach Otto Baric was fined by UEFA's Control and Disciplinary Committee in 2007 for making anti-gay remarks in a newspaper interview three years earlier.

Baric was fined $2,510 for saying that "there is no place for homosexuals in my team. Homosexuality is not good."

Markovic has been president of Croatia's soccer federation for 12 years. Last year he was awarded an Order of Merit by UEFA for his long and loyal service to the sport.

However, he is expected to be seriously challenged at presidential elections on Dec. 18 by former national player Igor Stimac.

Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press