Ezequiel Lavezzi has apologised after making what has been interpreted as a racist gesture in promotional pictures for his Chinese Super League club Hebei China Fortune.
The 32-year-old Argentina forward, who left Paris St Germain for China in February 2016, was pictured pulling the corners of his eyes tight against his face in official CSL photographs. He has been accused of racism by critics and social media users in China and abroad.
Lavezzi, who is reported in the book ‘Football Leaks: The Dirty Business of Football’ to be the best-paid player on the planet, with a £798,000-a-week salary, has now released an apology on his club’s official account on the Weibo social media platform.
He wrote: “About the misunderstanding surrounding the gesture that appears in the photo, I would like to clarify the following…
“The photo was taken before the start of the season, when my team-mates and I responded to requests to attend an official photography session for the Chinese Super League.
“As per the demands of the official CSL cameraman, I pulled funny and relaxed poses to create an entertaining atmosphere at the photography session.
“The photo was then published on the official CSL website. In this regard, I never had any bad intentions, and even less to humiliate those people of Chinese nationality.
“Since my arrival in China, I have been very happy to work for Hebei China Fortune. I am very lucky to be working here and I have a very good relationship with my colleagues.
“All the Chinese people around me are friendly, and I appreciate this opportunity to enjoy life in this country.
“If this photo has brought fans discomfort or bewilderment, I beg for their forgiveness. I have learned from this incident and I promise it will not happen again.”