Europe 1 with AFP / Photo credit: JEAN CATUFFE / DPPI via AFP 18:09 p.m., May 31, 2023Sports Minister Amélie Oudéa-Castéra sharply reframed Serbian Novak Djokovic after his remarks on Kosovo. The former tennis executive blamed these political statements. She warned the Serb and hopes he will not reoffend.
Serbian Novak Djokovic, author of an "inappropriate" message on the current tensions in Kosovo according to French Sports Minister Amélie Oudéa-Castéra, was not blamed by the International Federation (ITF) for whom "political statements" are not prohibited. The message of Serbian Novak Djokovic after his first match at Roland-Garros on the current tensions in Kosovo was "not appropriate" and "it must not start again", warned Wednesday Amélie Oudéa-Castéra.
On Monday, Novak Djokovic, whose father was born in Kosovo, wrote on camera: "Kosovo is the heart of Serbia. Stop the violence." A "militant", "very political" message, said the minister on France 2, which intervened at the time of an outbreak of violence in northern Kosovo pitting demonstrators of the Serb minority against the NATO force stationed there.
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"In the emotion"
This violence left about thirty international soldiers wounded and fifty Serb protesters, who, with Belgrade's support, refuse to recognize the authority of the Pristina government over the former Serbian province. Gilles Moretton, president of the French Tennis Federation, clarified the position of the tournament leaders: "When they are in a press conference, we will not sanitize the personality of the players. They have the right to express themselves in any area, however, on the pitch, we wanted the players not to have a political position," he said.
"We exchanged a lot with Djokovic's entourage and it must not happen again," he added, "there is no sanction for the moment because we know that he is in the emotion, we know that it is something that, for his family, touches him." The Roland-Garros code of ethics prohibits political or religious positions. Conversely, the ITF stressed on Wednesday that "political statements" by players were not prohibited. "The rules of conduct of players during a Grand Slam tournament are defined by the Grand Slam regulations, issued by the organizer and the regulator concerned. There is no provision in this regulation prohibiting political statements" by players, the ITF told AFP.
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Ms. Oudéa-Castera, invited to comment on the expression of political positions during this Grand Slam tournament, such as those of Ukrainian athletes since the Russian invasion of their country, stressed that she did not put "the two subjects on the same level". "When you carry messages that are in defense of human rights, messages that bring people together around universal values, an athlete is free to do so," she said. But not, according to her, when it comes to a "militant, very political" message like that of the Serbian player.
On Sunday, Ukraine's Marta Kostyuk did not greet Belarus' Aryna Sabalenka after their match, earning her the whistles of the Roland-Garros crowd. She intended to protest against the tennis authorities' response, which she considered too timid, to Russia's invasion of Ukraine, and to denounce the fact that Sabalenka did not take a position on this invasion.
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"We can understand" the gesture of the young Ukrainian, "even if we would like there to always be fair play until the end, to shake hands, there is a pain that is there, that I respect," added the minister. The next day, after his match against American Aleksandar Kovacevic 6-3, 6-2, 7-6 (7/1), Novak Djokovic, armed with his marker, had written his message in Cyrillic on the camera of the Philippe-Chatrier court.
The player, in search at Roland-Garros of his 23rd Grand Slam, which would be a historical record, justified himself in a press conference in front of Serbian journalists. "It's a sensitive subject," he acknowledged. I feel an additional responsibility as a public figure and as the son of a man born in Kosovo to support all the Serbian people. It is the least I can do. I'm not a politician and I don't intend to engage in a debate." Many Serbs regard Kosovo as their national and religious cradle and a minority still lives there.