In the build-up to Italy’s second Group C match against Croatia, Cassano responded to a question asking him if rumours that there were two gay players in the Azzurri squad by saying, apparently in jest:
“The coach had warned me that you would ask me this question.
“If I say what I think… I hope there are none. But if there are queers here, that’s their business.”
The quotes angered gay rights groups, including Italian-based Gay Centre, for his use of the slang term “frocio”, which roughly translates as “queer” in Italian.
AC Milan forward Cassano swiftly issued an apology saying at the time:
“I sincerely regret that my statements have sparked controversy and protest from gay rights groups.
“Homophobia is a sentiment that is not mine. I did not want to offend anyone and I cannot question the sexual freedom of other people. I only said that it is a problem that does not concern me and it is not for me to pass judgment on the choices of others, who are all respected.”