Russia women’s volleyball coach Sergio Busato has risked a further backlash after claiming his ‘slant eye’ gesture after the recent Olympic qualifier against South Korea was meant as a celebration at reaching Tokyo 2020.

Russia beat South Korea in Kaliningrad at the weekend to book their spot in next year’s Summer Olympics in Japan, but the victory has been overshadowed by complaints over Busato’s celebrations.

The Italian was seen making a ‘slant eye’ gesture on court, leading the Korea Volleyball Association to state it would lodge an official complaint with its Russian counterparts as well as the sport’s international governing body, the FIVB.

Busato, 53, has now said he did not intend to cause offense and was making the gesture in celebration at reaching the Games in Tokyo, rather than directing it at the beaten South Koreans.

Speaking to Russian outlet Ria Novosti, Busato said he was “surprised” that people had taken offense over the gesture and that it had been branded racist.

Russia beat South Korea in five sets in Kaliningrad. © Sputnik / Vladimir Pesnya

He nonetheless added that he apologized for any offense caused, and claimed that his gesture had been misinterpreted.

The Italian has been working in Russian men’s and women’s volleyball at club and national level since the turn of the century, including with the gold medal-winning male team at the London 2012 Games.     

Busato has worked extensively with Russian teams for around 20 years. © Sputnik / Vladimir Pesnya

He said when Russia had qualified for the 2016 Games in Brazil he had danced the samba in celebration, and said he “respects all nations.”

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