Wed, Nov 07, 2012 - Page 19 News List

Croatia ex-soccer chief to apologize over gay slur

AFP, ZAGREB

Croatia’s top court has ruled that the former chief of the country’s soccer federation (HNS) Vlatko Markovic must publicly apologize for saying that he would never accept a gay player in the national squad, a lawyer said on Monday.

“We received today the Supreme Court’s decision saying that Markovic was discriminating against the gay population” with his statements to a local daily in 2010, said Lina Budak, a lawyer representing several gay rights groups.

The tribunal also banned Markovic, who quit his HNS post in July, from any further public comments discriminating against gays and ordered him to publish both his apology and the court’s ruling in the daily, at his expense, she said.

In an interview with the Vecernji List, when asked whether he had ever met a gay soccer player, Markovic replied: “No, fortunately soccer is only played by healthy people.”

He later apologized for the comments, saying that he had “absolutely nothing against members of any minority, especially not against those of homosexual orientation.”

However several gay rights groups filed charges against Markovic accusing him of discrimination. After a Zagreb court rejected the charges as unfounded, the activists appealed to the Supreme Court in May last year.

“This is a big day, we are extremely happy that the ruling confirming discrimination is final,” Marko Jurcic of the Zagreb Pride association said.

European soccer’s governing body UEFA had already fined Markovic 10,000 euros (US$12,800) over his remarks.

Markovic, 75, former leading player and coach, has led the federation since 1998. He quit after Euro 2012 without revealing the reasons for his decision.

Croatian society remains conservative and the powerful Catholic Church has publicly labeled homosexuality a “handicap” and a “perversion.”

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