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I HOPE THERE ARE NO GAYS IN MY TEAM; GROUP C: ITALY v CROATIA, TOMORROW, 5.0 Cassano sparks row over homosexual jibe.

Byline: CHRIS BEECH

STRIKER Antonio Cassano yesterday said he hopes there are no homosexual players on the Italy team - and then used a derogatory word to describe gays.

After being told by an Italian reporter that there might be some undeclared gay players in the squad, Cassano appeared at a loss for words.

"That's their problem, but I hope not... but I don't know," he said, then added that he hoped his answer sufficed. "If not, I'll be attacked from every direction."

" e. m The question was asked by y an Italian journalist citing Alessandro Cecchi Paone, who co-wrote a book earlier this year with a title that can be translated as "The champion in love - the banned games of sport".

The journalist also suggested that there are a couple of metrosexual players on Italy's squad.

Italy coach Cesare Pran-delli (below) wrote the preface to Paone's book, in which he supported homosexuals in sport.

Another Italy forward, Antonio Di Natale, said after the book came out in April that homosexual footballers should not reveal that they are gay.

Upon hearing Cassano's comments, Paone told a local radio station that he had an affair with a member of Italy's squad and that the player told him of another gay player on the team.

raIpg wPnt "Prandelli definitely knows who the homosexuals are," Paone told Radio 24, also naming three players on the squad who he said are metrosexuals.

m "Cassano should come to lunch with me and I'll explain to him that there's no le problem having a gay player in the squad."

Meanwhile, Cassano also admitted he is still surprised to be at the tournament after his unexpected health scare last year.

He returned to play in April for AC Milan following a six-month spell on the sidelines after undergoing minor heart surgery.

"I honestly didn't think I would play at the European Championship," he said.

"I was scared. When you arrive to a certain point where it is a case of live or die, everything else becomes secondary.

"I saw the future as grey, very grey, but fortunately I am here. I have been blessed and even if I am not a believer I do feel I have been blessed."

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OUTSPOKEN STRIKER Antonio Cassano makes his comments about gays yesterday
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Title Annotation:Sport
Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Date:Jun 13, 2012
Words:383
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