Marcello Lippi (pictured), the coach of the Italian national football team, said on Wednesday that he would not select two players for his team if they were involved in a gay relationship, reports Agence France-Presse.
Lippi, who coached the team that won the 2006 World Cup, tried to attribute his discriminatory stance to team cohesion rather than homophobia in remarks to the Internet television program KlausCondicio.
"In the current climate, two national team players could never be involved in an open relationship," he said, as reported by AFP. "This is not a question of culture but is more related to the fact that such a relation would create conflicts contrary to the interests of the dynamics of the group. Imagine how a homosexual couple in football would be perceived. Even if, socially, most people would support and understand such a situation, it would nonetheless become magnified and eventually would be viewed negatively."
The Italian LGBT rights group Arcigay condemned the remarks in a statement.
"Why, dear Lippi, couldn't footballers openly experience gay love when they show their flirts with every type of showgirl in front of every TV camera?” asked the group.
Lippi previously said that there are no gay players in football and that he had never met a gay player or heard of one in his 40-year career.
The controversial comments arrived as a recent wave of antigay attacks, including an assault on a male couple and an attempted arson at a disco, rocked Rome and renewed calls for antidiscrimination protections.