A Russia women’s volleyball assistant coach is being looked at by the sport’s international governing body after a photo surfaced of him appearing to use his fingers to make his eyes look more Japanese, moments after the team qualified for the Tokyo Olympics.
Sergio Busato, an Italian-born assistant coach for Russia’s national team, made the gesture after his team beat South Korea to qualify for the 2020 Tokyo Games, according to Russian media.
The International Volleyball Federation (FIVB) confirmed Thursday that it received a complaint, reportedly from South Korea’s federation, and that it is investigating the matter.
“The FIVB is aware of this matter and notes that the Russian Volleyball Federation immediately took steps to get the picture taken down by various sites as the image does not reflect their views or values,” the FIVB said in a statement. “It is important to stress that the FIVB does not approve of any such culturally insensitive gestures, even if there was no intention to offend,” it said in a statement.
Busato said he was surprised that the gesture was received as offensive, according to RIA Novosti, noting that when Russia qualified for the Rio Olympics, he did a samba dance in celebration.
In 2008, Spanish men’s basketball players apologized after a photo of the team making the same gesture was published for the Beijing Olympics. In 2011, Brazilian swimmer Cesar Cielo made the gesture at the world championships in Shanghai.
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