The incident occurred during Tuesday’s match in the FIVB Volleyball Women’s Nations League, which took place in Italy. Serbian player Sanja Djurdjevic stretched her eyelids apart while speaking to one of her teammates. In video shared and widely condemned across social media, the players can be seen smiling after the gesture is made.
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The entire team was also photographed making the same gesture, which is universally used to be hateful towards people of Asian descent, in 2018, while they were playing in Japan.
Djurdjevic apoligized in a now-private Instagram post, according to Vice, saying she meant “not so smart,” and suggesting the gesture was some sort of volleyball signal.
“I am aware of my mistake and I immediately after the match apologized to the whole Thailand team,” she wrote, per Vice. “I only wanted to address my teammates with the message: ‘now, we will start playing defense like them’, I didn’t mean to disrespect anyone.”
Members of the Thai volleyball team appear to have accepted the apology, apparently posing for team photos with the Serbian players. Pleumjit Thinkaow, of the Thai team, also posted a video in which she and Djurdjevic appear friendly.
That video was shared by the Volleyball Federation of Serbia in a Facebook post, where the organization offered an apology to the Thai team, followed by a request to not “blow this out of proportion.”
“Sanja is aware of her mistake and she immediately apologized to the whole Thailand team,” the post read.
“Of course, it was unfortunate,” it continued, after offering the same explanation regarding signaling the other teammates. “It all ended up as a simple misunderstanding, in a friendly atmosphere between the players of the two teams.”