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Gay football remark causes stir in Croatia

08:10 Tue Nov 6 2012

Croatia's top court has ruled the former chief of country's football federation (HNS) Vlatko Markovic to publicly apologise for saying that he would never accept a gay player in the national squad.

"We received today the Supreme Court's decision saying that Markovic was discriminating the gay population" with his statements to a local daily in 2010, Lina Budak, a lawyer representing several gay rights groups, told AFP.

The tribunal also banned Markovic, who quit the 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 added.

In an interview to the Vecernji List daily, when asked whether he had ever met a gay football player, Markovic replied: "No, fortunately football is only played by healthy people."

He later apologised 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 for discrimination.

After a Zagreb court last year rejected the charges as unfounded, the activists appealed to the Supreme Court in May 2011.

"This is a big day, we are extremely happy that the ruling confirming discrimination is final," Marko Jurcic of the Zagreb Pride association told AFP.

European football's governing body UEFA had already fined Markovic E10,000 ($A12,5009) over his remarks.

Markovic, 75, a former leading player and coach, had led the federation since 1998. He quit after Euro 2012 without revealing the reasons.

Croatian society remains conservative and the powerful Catholic Church has publicly labelled homosexuality a "handicap" and a "perversion".

Almost 90 per cent of the former Yugoslav republic's population of 4.2 million are Roman Catholics.