Uruguayan footballer Federico Valverde has denied making the offensive “slant eyes” after winning against Portugal in Sunday’s quarter-final at the Under-20 World Cup in South Korea.
The Real Madrid star helped his country make its way through to the semi-finals by scoring an equalizer and then sealing the team’s victory in a penalty shootout.
But the way he decided to celebrate his goal shocked the locals of Daejeon when he pulled the sides of his eyes to give them the appearance of slits.
Valverde has since issued an apology in Korean on his official Twitter page, according to the Independent.
“It is not a racist celebration,” he wrote. “It was a private celebration for friends. I did not have any racist intent. I’d like to apologize.”
But this is apparently not the first time Valverde has pulled his eyes back after winning a game.
The entire team of Celeste players reportedly made a similar gesture in a celebratory photo, and FIFA has also called on Uruguay to explain Valverde’s actions, according to Goal.com.
“It is the same gesture they have been making since the South American Championships in Ecuador,” Aldo Gioia, a member of the Uruguayan delegation in South Korea, said in an interview.
“They are making a big deal out of something that really shouldn’t be and we have to answer them. We thought that with Valverde’s explanation and apology this would be over but now we have this.”
Argentinean footballer Ezequiel Lavezzi, who plays for Hebei CFFC making more than $1 million a week, apologized in May after pulling a similar gesture during a promotional campaign for the Chinese Super League.
Also last week, the Serbian women’s volleyball team celebrated winning a spot in the 2018 FIVB Women’s World Championship in Japan by doing the “slant-eye” pose for a group photo after defeating Poland in a qualifier match.