Andres Iniesta explains Three Kings Day photo that prompted backlash

Former Spain and Barcelona star Andres Iniesta has released a statement explaining a social media post that prompted criticism because of a photo that included two people in blackface.

They were among 10 people that appeared along with the 34-year-old Vissel Kobe midfielder in an Instagram post celebrating Three Kings Day, a tradition that in Spain includes parades held in cities and villages featuring three men dressed up as kings - one of whom is traditionally black.

The photo published Sunday triggered overwhelmingly negative reactions and calls to take it down.

"Andres Iniesta's family received the visit of the Three Magic Kings at his house and decided to photograph themselves to share this image with his fans on the player's social networks," the agency representing the player said. "With this post, Andres Iniesta wanted to show the world the children's illusion in this magical and special day. 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."

The agency said the statement was intended to "settle the controversy that has arisen in some countries around this picture."

"At no time, Andres Iniesta wanted to bother anyone with that photograph, which is the image of the illusion in Spain and apologizes to those people who may have been offended," it said.

In December 2017, France soccer star Antoine Griezmann, who is also white, apologised for any offense caused after posting an image of himself on social media in blackface as part of an NBA party costume.