Meet Ezequiel “El Pocho” Lavezzi.
He’s a professional soccer player from Argentina. That’s him to Messi’s right.
He’s played club ball in Italy (Napoli) and France (Paris Saint-Germain).
He also routinely makes those “hottest soccer player” lists that go around every World Cup.
Last year, Lavezzi made a move to China’s Super League. He joined Hebei China Fortune F.C., where he’s reportedly being paid about $10 million a season.
Although he was sidelined by injury last season, Lavezzi is healthy again and playing regularly.
Things were looking up, until recently, when a promotional image of Lavezzi making an offensive gesture made its way to social media:
This promotional image of Ezequiel Lavezzi ? pic.twitter.com/a6UAyM9OmN
— Sean Fay (@Sean_Fay) May 12, 2017
CREDIT: FX / Louie
You shouldn’t be doing that anywhere, but doing it while in CHINA? Yikes.
This is not the first time an athlete made the “slant eyes” gesture in China: In 2008, Spain’s national basketball team (yes, the whole team) made the gesture while posing for Olympic photos.
After receiving word about the offensive photo, Lavezzi apologized, saying it was not his intent to offend Chinese people.
In an official statement, Lavezzi said:
“I had no intention of insulting the Chinese people and did not do it with any bad intentions. I’m very happy to be here as part of the Hebei club. I have had great time here with my team mates and it has been a great journey. Every Chinese person around me is friendly and I love my life here.”
The 32-year-old added:
“I deeply apologize if this photo has offended the Chinese public and fans. I will be more careful in the future.”
Lavezzi’s club team, Hebei China Fortune, also issued an apology:
CREDIT: Hebei Fortune
“He has expressed his love for China many times too. Now we have communicated with him and have clarified he had no bad intentions and he deeply apologized for any offense caused.”
The team also took responsibility for the release of the photo:
“As a club we apologize for our neglect in our work. We will be more careful in the future.”
Correction: A previous version of this story incorrectly listed Lavezzi’s first name as Enrique.