A Serbian volleyball player has been suspended for two games after making a racist slant eye gesture during a game against Thailand on Tuesday June 1.
Sanja Djurdjevic was captured pulling her eyelids with two fingers after Thai player Pleumjit Thinkaow failed to score, violating International Volleyball Federation (FIVB) regulations and sparking public outrage.
Djurdjevic has issued an apology, along with the Volleyball Federation of Serbia, saying the gesture was “unfortunate” and she “didn’t mean any disrespect”.
The Volleyball Federation of Serbia has been fined 20,000 Swiss francs ($22,000).
The FIVB says the money will be donated to a cause focused on tackling discriminatory behaviour and to fund educational programmes on cultural sensitivity.
“We apologize sincerely to the Thailand team, people of Thailand and to all of you affected by this,” Serbia’s Federation wrote on Facebook. “But, please, don’t blow this out of proportion! Sanja is aware of her mistake and she immediately apologized to the whole Thailand team. She only wanted to show her teammates ‘let’s start playing defense like them now’.”
“It all ended up as a simple misunderstanding, in a friendly atmosphere between the players of the two teams,” it added.
Thinkaow has posted a video with Djurdjevic, saying she has accepted Djurdjevic’s apology.
“[Djurdjevic] walked to our room. She said she was so stressed. She said she didn’t have the intention [to offend us]. Please forgive her,” Thinkaow wrote.
People online have rejected the apology.
“The Thai volleyball player is kind enough to forgive you but your behavior and racism are unacceptable. Asian had been dealing with this stuff for years. If you don’t know about this ‘unfortunate gesture’ and ‘didn’t mean any disrespect’ Educate yourself,” one person wrote.