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Football star Ivan Rakitić has been criticised for recently resurfaced 'homophobic' comments he made back in 2012.

In an interview with Spanish sports website Offside Mag, the Barcelona and Croatia midfielder is reported to have said:

I respect homosexuals, but I do not want those people in the locker room. 

I would not leave a team for that, because I respect a homosexual equal to a black, a fat or a dwarf, but if possible I prefer not to have gays in my life.

Rakitić was sharing his thoughts after being asked about Fifa's decision to fine Vlatko Markovic, the then-president of the Croatian Football Federation, for saying that "in no way could a gay man play in the national team" and that "fortunately football is only played by healthy people".

The interview resurfaced after being discovered by renowned FIFA and UEFA-accredited football journalist Chris Williams, who indicated that Rakitić's comments had not been given the proper attention when they were made seven years ago.

While some fans leapt to Rakitić's defence and claimed his comments had been "misunderstood" or "taken out of context" - and that he's "entitled to his opinion" - many called the player out for blatant homophobia.

Rakitić appeared for Barcelona earlier this month against Liverpool, with the team losing 4-0 and crashing out of the Champions League.

In a 2014 interview, Rakitić himself claimed his comments were a "misunderstanding", saying:

It was a misunderstanding. I'm an open person and I have no problems with gay players. I'm open to sharing a dressing room with anyone who is a good person and a good player, and sexual orientation is not important to me.

Figures from anti-discrimination charity Kick It Out revealed that in 2016-2017, reports of homophobia in football had increased nine per cent, reports the BBC.

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