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The Serbs are mobilizing for their star Novak Djokovic, in detention in Australia

An entire people behind its idol. While Novak Djokovic woke up again on the morning of Friday January 7, Orthodox Christmas Day, in a Melbourne detention center after the cancellation of his visa, the anger and mobilization of his supporters do not weaken. .

Ten days before the start of the Australian Open (January 17 to 30), of which he is the three-time defending champion, Djokovic spent a second night in a cramped room at the Park Hotel in Melbourne, used by the Australian government to detain illegal immigrants.

The “Djoker”, whose visa was canceled for lack of documents necessary to obtain a medical exemption from the vaccination obligation, will not be expelled before Monday, the date of a new hearing before a judge in Melbourne.

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A case turned political

The building in which the world number one is held suffers from a bad reputation. A fire broke out there in December, forcing its evacuation. Detainees complained on social media, with photos, of finding maggots and mold in the food and, in October, 21 people contracted Covid-19 there. “This hotel is infamous, in the truest sense of the word”denounced the Serbian President, Aleksandar Vucic.

The Serbian authorities, he stressed, are doing “everything possible” to help Novak Djokovic, stating that Prime Minister Ana Brnabic is due to meet with a senior Australian Department of Immigration and Borders official. Belgrade intends to ask the Australian authorities to allow Djokovic to stay in the house he rented for the Australian Open.

The Serbian Ministry of Foreign Affairs specified, in a press release issued late Thursday afternoon, that it had expressed a “oral protest” to the Australian Ambassador in Belgrade because of the “inappropriate treatment” suffered by the player. “Novak Djokovic is neither a criminal, nor a terrorist nor an illegal migrant, but he was treated in this way by the Australian authorities, which provokes the indignation of his supporters and the citizens of Serbia”the statement said.

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Novak “crucified”

Srdan Dojkovic, the father of Novak Djokovic, during the demonstration of support organized for his son in Belgrade, January 6, 2022.

The player’s family organized a demonstration of support in Serbia on Thursday. Without containing his fury, the tennis player’s father, Srdjan Djokovic, addressed a crowd gathered in Belgrade to denounce a “political witch hunt” and one “corona fascism”calling for the release of his son.

“He fulfilled all the conditions necessary for his entry and his participation in the tournament, which he would have won of course. Because it’s about Novak, the best tennis player and sportsman in the world.he proclaimed during a press conference.

“Jesus was crucified and subjected to many things, but he held on and is still alive among us. Novak is also crucified in the same way, he, the best sportsman and man in the world. He will hold on”also estimated the father of the player, asking ” A support [à son fils]not violence”.

On Friday, Australian Home Secretary Karen Andrews dismissed accusations that Djokovic was being held against his will, saying he could return home whenever he wanted:

“Mr. Djokovic is not being held captive in Australia. He is free to leave whenever he wishes and the border police will facilitate his departure. »

Mme Andrews also confirmed that two other people, players or staff members coming for the Australian Open, also had visa problems.

Sharp Rafael Nadal

The Serbian community in Melbourne has also mobilized by demonstrating alongside vaccine slayers and migrant defenders in front of the Park Hotel.

“Why didn’t you tell him before he came to Australia?” Why now ? (…) I love Australia, but what you are doing now is a disgrace to you”got carried away Gordana, a Serb who has lived for 26 years in Australia, with AFP.

Already present in Australia, the Spaniard Rafael Nadal, who contracted Covid-19 last month despite two doses of the vaccine, expressed little sympathy for his Serbian rival.

“If you’re vaccinated, you can play the Australian Open and everywhere, and in my opinion the world has suffered enough not to play by the rules. »

Anger of Aussies

As Serbian politicians vie with nationalist commentary to defend their champion, the already struggling Australian prime minister faces questions over the handling of the incident as elections approach.

Scott Morrison, under pressure from the explosion in the number of Covid-19 cases and the collapse of the once effective screening system, has defended himself from revoking Djokovic’s visa at the last minute. “The rules are the rules and there are no special cases”he said.

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But many Australians, angry at a toll that has risen to more than 70,000 contaminations a day after nearly two years without or almost no cases, see the Djokovic case as a diversion.

“It’s happening when we have a major crisis going on with Omicron, and it suits the government well”Chris Moy, vice-president of the Australian Medical Association, told AFP. “It’s really disturbing from a health point of view (…), we need governments that are focused on the health crisis, not stupid stuff, frankly”. For him, the Djokovic episode is like watching “reality tv [alors que] Rome is burning ».

The World with AFP

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