Ex-Fiorentina coach 'sorry' for slapping player

By ANDREW DAMPF | May 4, 2012 | 5:37 AM EDT

In this Wednesday, May 2, 2012 photo Fiorentina coach Delio Rossi looks down during a Serie A soccer match between Fiorentina and Novara, at the Artemio Franchi stadium in Florence, Italy. Fiorentina coach Delio Rossi's physical assault of one of his own players sparked outrage Thursday, and the club announced that club manager Vincenzo Guerini will take over the team for the final two matches of the season. Rossi was fired for slapping Adem Ljajic in the face after the Serbian forward protested his first-half substitution Wednesday during a 2-2 draw with Novara. The coach then had to be pulled away as it appeared he was lining up a punch. (AP Photo/Photobovo, Lapresse)

ROME (AP) — Fiorentina coach Delio Rossi has apologized for slapping a player but says he demands respect for himself and his team.

He said Friday in Florence that his "gesture was deplorable, but understandable, humanly" speaking.

Rossi was fired for slapping Adem Ljajic on Wednesday as the Serbian forward returned to the bench after being substituted in a Serie A game. Ljajic stuck his thumb up to ironically protest his coach's decision. Rossi appeared to be about to deliver a punch when he was pulled away from Ljajic.

He apologized to his players and to Ljajic, adding "I made a mistake and I'm paying for it." But Rossi indicated he was provoked by a lack of "respect" for his role, his team and family.