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As the Europe prepares for the Eurovision Song Contest 2017 to come to a head, Croatia’s contestant has found himself at the centre of a homophobia row relating to historic comments he’s alleged to have made about gay people.

Croatian pop star Jacques Houdek, who is set to represent the country in tonight’s final in Kiev after making it through Thursday’s semi-final with opera-inspired track ‘My Friend’, has been accused of making numerous homophobic statements in the past.

The singer was named Homophobe of the Year 2006 by Croatia’s leading LGBT website Gay.hr after reportedly branding same-sex marriage “sick”, Gay Star News reports.

He was later nominated as Zagreb Pride’s Homophobe of the Decade in 2011, with organisers describing the singer as “without doubt the biggest homophobe in Croatian showbiz.”

Houdek, who has released 13 albums in his home country, denied the accusations that year in a Facebook post.

“It is not true that I am homophobe, which can be confirmed by my friends, colleagues and acquaintances from business circles who are gay,” he said at the time.

“Likewise, any form of hatred does not correspond to my personality, so to call me ‘hater’ or ‘greatest homophobe on Croatian show business’, is at the very least incorrect, because no evidence exists for such accusations.”

Coverage of the Eurovision Song Contest final kicks off in the UK on BBC One from 8pm tonight (May 13) – you can listen to all this year’s entries here.

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