Tokyo, January 8: Andres Iniesta has apologised after a social media photo of his family celebrating the Spanish holiday of Three Kings Day included two people in blackface.
The 34-year-old, who plays for Japanese club Vissel Kobe, took to his various social media channels on Sunday to share the image, which showed his family with six people appearing to be dressed as biblical characters.
In Spain it is tradition for parades around this time of year to feature men dressed as the three kings, who – according to the Christian Bible – are said to have brought gifts to the baby Jesus.
One of these kings is often portrayed as a black man, and in Iniesta's photo two of the people dressed up appear to be wearing make-up to darken their skin.
Iniesta's photo sparked a significant backlash across social media, and he has issued an apology to those offended by the image.
A statement from the former Barcelona midfielder's advisors 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 characterised 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 bother anyone with that photograph, which is the image of the illusion in Spain and apologises to those people who may have been offended."