6 June 2024

A Serbian volleyball player has apologised to the Thai team for making an alleged racist gesture during a game in the Nations League, hosted by Italy yesterday (Tuesday).

The player, Sanja Djurdjevic, pulled the corners of her eyes back, to narrow them into an ‘oriental’ shape, a gesture not appreciated by native Asians. Sanja has posted on Instagram, saying she is aware of her mistake and that she apologised after the game to the Thai team, who lost to the Serbians 3-0.

“I only wanted to address my teammates with the message ‘now we will start playing defence like them.’ I didn’t mean to disrespect anyone. Of course it was unfortunate and not so smart gesture from my side,” she wrote.

“I want to apologise one more time to people all over the world who are offended by this,” she added.

The Serbian Volleyball Federation has also posted a message of apology on Facebook, saying it is “deeply saddened by the recent event” and apologised to the team and the people of Thailand, asking the Thai fans not to “blow it out of proportion”.

“It all ended up as a simple misunderstanding, in a friendly atmosphere between the players of the two teams,” said the association.

Meanwhile, Thai volleyball player Pleumjit Thinkaow has urged Thai fans to stop criticising the Serbian team, saying it was not an intentional racist gesture.

Earlier, the Volleyball Association of Thailand had decided to withdraw from the Volleyball Nations League (VNL) tournaments this year, after 22 team members and 4 sports scientists working with them contracted COVID-19. The decision was changed and players who are not infected were sent instead. The VNL comprises 16 national teams.