Updated:Oct 10, 2022
The bombshell tweet arrives in the early afternoon of a football Sunday, assuming global relevance in social media and various magazines. Iker Casillas, World champion with Spain in 2010 and twice European champion in 2008 and 2012, states in a few words that he is gay, adding: I hope to be respected now. That was enough to become quickly viral and obviously thrill the LGBTIQA+ community, in a mix of excitement and cautious waiting. Will he have decided to make a clean break from his previous life after his farewell to football in 2020 and the split from his ex wife Sara Carbonero the following year?
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The response tweets are all of the great support, and participation, with someone who regrets that his coming out happened only after he retired from football and not (more bravely) before that. But at the same time, more users believe this could be a taunt or hacking.
Something is not looking quite right, and it is evident minutes later when Carles Puyol, the historical Barcelona defender and former Casillas‘ teammate in Spain, replies ironically: It’s time to come out and tell our story.
The optimism dictated by the whole story shows that many are not aware of the personal account of the Spanish goalkeeper. Married for 10 years to the Spanish journalist Sara Carbonero, met in 2010, during the World Cup in South Africa when Spain became World Champion; he was recently rumoured dating Alejandra Onieva, soap-operas figure in Spain, former sister-in-law of Tamara Falcó, another Iker Casillas’ ex-fiancee.
Therefore, it became clear to many that his tweet was a clumsy attempt to silence the rumours of yet another affair attributed to the 41-year-old footballer. Then, with an even more clumsy intervention, certainly not up to his skills on the pitch, Real Madrid’s legend Casillas tried to remedy the mistake with another tweet: “Account hacked. Fortunately, everything is Ok now. I apologise to all my followers. And of course, the biggest apologies go to the LGBT community “. So how do you justify the joke of Carles Puyol, who made fun implying a relationship between them?Embed from Getty Images
It is difficult to believe that it was not him typing that message. Still, most likely, a bad-taste joke that has inevitably hurt the sensitivity of the gay community, for which a coming out is never an easy choice or step to take, but is often the result of a long and arduous wait in an attempt to avoid prejudices or, even worse, ostracism at a professional level.
Josh cavallo condemns Casillas and PuyolEmbed from Getty Images
Josh Cavallo, Australian football player, who bravely came out last year, acquiring global fame, condemned Casillas and Puyol‘s tweets defining them beyond disrespectful. “Iker Casillas and Carles Puyol 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“, he said in a tweet became viral.
Even Puyol later apologised: “Sorry for a clumsy joke with no bad intentions and totally out of place“.
Although initially masked as an incident as the result of hacking, the final result has strengthened the idea of an environment where many gay footballers still struggle to get full integration, often hardly hiding throughout their careers, both at higher and lower ranks. Furthermore, Puyol’s tweet, far from normalising the coming out and launching a message of inclusiveness, does nothing but cast a shadow of backward irony on homosexual relationship in a football environment, which could be much more common than it appears. That machismo clashes with the commitment that FIFA and UEFA have made for years by launching awareness campaigns on issues such as racism, homophobia, and sexism in football. A missed opportunity.