Colombia coach Jose Pekerman has issued an apology after midfielder Edwin Cardona appeared to make an offensive eye gesture at South Korea players in Friday’s 2-1 defeat.
Tensions boiled over in the 63rd minute when James Rodriguez forced Kim Jin-su to his feet while he was waiting for medical attention after hurting his leg.
Captain Ki Sung-yueng reacted by pushing James away from his team-mate, with the Bayern Munich man theatrically throwing himself to the ground.
Other players then got involved and Cardona – a half-time substitute – was filmed appearing to make a squinting gesture at the South Korea skipper, who blasted his behaviour after the match.
Cardona issued a public apology and denied allegations of racism, insisting he never meant to “disrespect anyone, any country or any race”, and his coach lamented the incident.
“We deeply regret any offense caused by Cardona’s behaviour,” he told a news conference ahead of Tuesday’s fixture with China.
“All of our players are sorry about this. The player himself also apologised on social media.
“He hasn’t made any similar mistakes before. Perhaps [Cardona’s behaviour] was due to cultural differences. He felt deep regret over this.
“Football is not merely a sport. In some occasions, it could even end wars. We are truly sorry for causing such negative influence.”