I'm not homophobic, insists Cassano

The 29-year-old sparked outrage by saying that he hopes that there are no gay players in the Azzurri squad, but has now attempted to clarify his comments with an apology
Italy forward Antonio Cassano has apologised for using a derogatory term for homosexuals during a press conference on Tuesday.

The AC Milan attacker caused outrage by revealing that he hopes that there are no gay players within the Azzurri's Euro 2012 squad.

Cassano was roundly castigated over his comments and the 29-year-old made a swift apology for any offence caused, issuing a statement just hours later.

"I am sincerely sorry if my comments sparked controversy and protests among gay rights associations," the forward explained.

"Homophobia is not something that is part of my nature. I didn’t want to offend anyone and I absolutely do not want to put anyone’s sexual freedom under duress.

"I only said that it’s a problem that has nothing to do with me and I do not judge the choices of others, which should be respected."

Cassano is expected to start for Italy in Thursday's crucial Group C clash with Croatia.