Iniesta apologizes after blackface backlash, but keeps photos online
The former Barcelona star, 34, posted the image on his social media accounts, in which he is sitting in front of friends and family members, some of whom are traditionally dressed in costume to mark the Three Kings Day celebration in Spain.
Two of the people appear as kings and are in ‘blackface’ – which prompted anger online and accusations of “ignorance” and “racism.”
A statement from a spokesperson for the player, cited by Goal.com, read: "On January 6, Andres Iniesta's family received the visit of the Three Kings at his house and decided to photograph himself to share this image with his fans on the player's social networks.
"The presence of the Three Kings belongs to the culture of our country, rooted for many years with which we want to celebrate the most magical day of the year with our children and is a tradition that the Iniesta Ortiz family repeats every year.
"We want to settle the controversy that has arisen around this picture in which the three people dressed and characterized with make-up appear as the Kings of the East, Gaspar, Melchior, and Baltasar, as happens in most cavalcades and events that were celebrated in Spain that day.
"At no time did Andres Iniesta want to upset anyone with that photograph, which is the image of the illusion in Spain, and apologizes to those people who may have been offended."Also on rt.com ‘Ignorant idiot!’ Spanish football legend Iniesta slammed over blackface Epiphany photo
The pictures have not been removed from his social media accounts at the time of writing.
Iniesta is considered one of the greatest Spanish players to have graced the game, and his goal handed the country victory in the World Cup final in 2010.
He spent almost 20 years at club team Barcelona – during which time he won a host of titles, including four Champions Leagues – before moving to Vissel Kobe in Japan last summer.