05/04/2012 09:35 EDT | Updated 07/04/2012 05:12 EDT

Ex-Serie A coach Rossi apologizes for slapping player, but demands 'respect' for himself, team

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

He told a news conference on 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.