Novak Djokovic: “Kosovo is the heart of Serbia”
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Djokovic faces criticism for Kosovo message
Serbian tennis player Novak Djokovic has written a political message on a French Open camera lens, sparking controversy. After his first-round win at Roland Garros stadium in Paris, the 22-time Grand Slam champion wrote “Kosovo is the heart of Serbia. Stop the violence”. The phrase refers to ongoing tensions between Serbia and its former province, which declared independence in 2008 but remains unrecognised by Belgrade. France’s Sports Minister Amelie Oudea-Castera criticised Djokovic’s actions.
Oudea-Castera said there needs to be a “principle of neutrality for the field of play,” adding that she did not put Kosovo and Ukraine “on the same level”. The minister was referring to players who expressed their support for Ukraine at previous tournaments amid Russia’s invasion. Despite backlash against his statement, world governing body the International Tennis Federation confirmed Djokovic did not breach any rules as it does not ban political messages during matches.
A controversial issue
The issue remains controversial; Kosovo Olympic authorities have asked the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to open disciplinary proceedings against Djokovic, accusing him of stirring up political tension.
Djokovic’s father was born in Kosovo and he says he feels compelled to show his support because what is happening in Kosovo sets a legal precedent internationally.The athlete added that despite being opposed to conflict or violence, he believes strongly about this case affecting other people.
“It drives me as well “
This latest incident follows several others where sports events became politicised through gestures by athletes or officials. Speaking after his latest win, Djokovic said that he was aware people would disagree with him and his actions but this is an issue he “stands for”. The Serbian athlete added that the controversy could have been avoided.
The situation in Kosovo remains contentious with Serbia refusing to recognise its independence from Belgrade. The debate is likely to continue as long as pressure for recognition persists and athletes choose to express their political views on tennis courts or other sports arenas.
For now, though, Novak Djokovic’s supporters are celebrating his success at the French Open and await further victories on the court.