Politics in sports


Novak Djokovic courts controversy at French Open with political message

Novak Djokovic courts controversy at French Open with political message
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Novak Djokovic has sparked a potential political row after writing the phrase “Kosovo is the heart of Serbia” while also calling for peace after his 6-3, 6-2, 7-6(1) win against the American Aleksandar Kovacevic on Monday.

Djokovic used the customary post-match camera signing to write the message: “Kosovo is [heart symbol] Serbia. Stop violence.” Later on Monday, Djokovic reposted a photo of his message on to his Instagram story.

Djokovic’s comments were in reference to recent unrest and violence in Kosovo after local elections in April. Serbs form the majority of the population in northern Kosovo and they still view Belgrade as their capital. After they refused to take part in local elections, groups of ethnic Serbs in northern Kosovo clashed with Kosovo police and Nato‑led peacekeepers.

After the 1998-99 war that led to the deaths of at least 10,000 people, Kosovo declared independence from Serbia in 2008 and it is recognised by more than 100 members of the UN, including the UK. But Serbia still considers Kosovo as part of its country and has refused to recognise Kosovo as an independent state.

In his post-match press conference with Serbian media, Djokovic said: “I am not a politician and I don’t have the intention to get into political debate. That topic is very sensitive. As a Serb, everything that’s happening in Kosovo hurts me a lot.

“This is the least I could have done. I feel the responsibility as a public figure – doesn’t matter in which field – to give support. Especially as a son of a man born in Kosovo, I feel the need to give my support to them and to Serbia. I don’t know what the future brings for Serbian people and for Kosovo, but it’s necessary to show support and demonstrate unity in these kinds of situations.”

Djokovic said he had not been approached by the tournament organisers after writing the message. “I don’t know what’s going to happen – I heard that there have been many objections on social media – whether I will be punished … I am not holding back, I would do it again.

“My stance is clear: I am against wars, violence and any kind of conflict, as I’ve always stated publicly. I empathise with all people, but the situation with Kosovo is a precedent in international law … I am very sorry for the situation that we are in – Kosovo is our hearthstone, our stronghold, our most important monasteries are there.”

Photo: Matthieu Mirville/DPPI/Shutterstock
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