Stan Collymore has said he is “disappointed” in Andres Iniesta, who has come under fire for posing in a photo with two people wearing blackface.
The 34-year-old former Barcelona footballer, now with Japanese club Vissel Kobe, posted a photo to social media of himself with his family and a group dressed in costumes for Three Kings Day.
Also known as Epiphany, the Christian celebration takes place on January 6 and is popular in the 34-year-old’s native Spain, where it is common for King Balthazar to be played by a white man with his face painted black.
Former Liverpool and England striker Collymore wrote on Twitter that he is “mild disappointed” by the picture.
“World class player had a chance to say ‘naa, we’ve moved on from these portrayals, however historic they are,” he tweeted. “‘I’ve played with dozens of black players and for them and their sensibilities, time to move on.’
“You know, a bit like bullfighting.”
Now a pundit, Collymore was born to a Barbadian father and English mother and his disappointment in Iniesta was shared by other football commentators.
Journalist Musa Okwonga tweeted: “I love Iniesta like few other public figures, let alone athletes. He seems a supremely humble man and team-mate.
“I just wonder how you can share a dressing room and so many trophies with Eric Abidal and Dani Alves and still not realise this is not cool. It’s very disappointing.”
Iniesta played at Barcelona with Frenchman Abidal and Brazilian Alves, along with other black players such as Thierry Henry and Yaya Toure.
DJ Nick Bright said: “I cannot believe in 2019 famous people are still doing or are around people doing ‘blackface’ and tweeting it, where are your friends Iniesta?! Didn’t anyone say ‘Andres, I don’t think this is the one bro’”
Three Kings Day commemorates magi Balthazar, Caspar and Melchior and their visit to the newborn baby Jesus.
In 2016, Madrid mayor Manuela Carmena was angrily criticised by many in the city for modernising changes made to the Epiphany parade, which included allowing a black man to play Balthazar for the first time.
Neither Iniesta nor his club have publicly commented following complaints about the picture.