A leading gay rights group in Italy has condemned comments by the country’s football coach about homosexual players.

Arcigay said that LGBT people “don’t want to be afraid anymore” after a series of attacks in Rome, including an arson attack on a gay club.

The coach of the Italian national football team, Marcello Lippi, said in an interview released yesterday that in “the current climate” it would be impossible for two of his players to be in a gay relationship.

“Imagine how a homosexual couple in football would be perceived,” he said.

“Even if, socially, most people would support and understand such a situation, it would nonetheless become magnified and eventually would be viewed negatively.”

In a statement on their website, Arcigay said:

“In these days when gay people watch helpless and overwhelmed in episodes of brutal violence against them … we hear yet another hypocritical justification of that system of media, politics and culture, which lawful discrimination of our loves and remains unmoved to the culture of our retrograde and provincial media.

“Why, dear Lippi, the players could not live gay love openly, when performing in front of each camera their flirtation?

“Words like these fortify the prejudice that homosexual relationships are more dirty and unspeakable, uttered by a person who plays an educational role model for millions of Italian boys playing soccer and believe sport as a model of social and cultural life.

“We are tired of hearing politicians, singers, coaches feeding, even through the unsaid, a climate poisoned by distrust and fear.

“We do not want to have more fear and we hope for public figures who have the courage to affirm the dignity of each person to live in the sunlight, their relationships, their loves.”

On Tuesday night nighclub Qube, home of the LGBT Muccassassina festival, was targeted by arsonists – it was empty at the time.

A few days before a gay couple were assualted near Rome’s gay village. One was stabbed and he is in a serious condition.

The city’s rightwing mayor, Gianni Alemanno, has backed Arcigay’s calls for anti-discrimination laws to help tackle homophobic violence.