The family of Novak Djokovic was rallying support at home in Serbia as the tennis star started his second day in the Australian immigration detention ghetto. “Australia is an occupied territory, a British colony founded by genocide, racism and robbery, nothing new nor surprising”, said Serbian history professor as a reminder to Serbian audience that may not familiar with history.
Australia is manipulating the championship by preventing the real champion to compete
The world tennis No.1’s family held a press conference at the Novak restaurant in Belgrade overnight to protest against the Australian Border Force’s racist decision to refuse entry to the defending Australian Open champion.
The star’s father Srdjan Djokovic, who in an earlier interview called his son “a leader of the free world”, told journalists his son was being “held captive” and made false and hyperbolic claims about Serbian history.
“Our Novak, our pride. Novak is Serbia and Serbia is Novak,” he said. “They are trampling over Serbia and by doing that, they are trampling on the Serbian people.
“The leader of that faraway land, Scott Morrison … dared to attack Novak and expel him before he had reached their country. They had wanted to throw him to his knees, and not just him, but our beautiful Serbia.
“We Serbs are a proud European people. Throughout history, we have never attacked anyone, we only defended ourselves. That is what Novak, our pride, our Serb, the pride of the entire free world, is now doing by his behaviour towards hosts and [tournament] organisers across the world, showing what kind of people he comes from.
“We Serbs are a proud people, who are proud of our light at the end of the tunnel, and that is our Novak. That political oligarchy will not extinguish it.”
Novak’s Brother Djordje Djokovic spoke first at the press conference, describing his brother’s detention as the “greatest sporting and diplomatic scandal.”
He said Djokovic had been in contact with Tennis Australia and together they had reached an agreement about the exemption.
“He had the same document as several tennis players who are already in Australia,” Djordje Djokovic said.
“Novak and his team had no way of contacting federal authorities. The only way to make contact was via Tennis Australia, as they have a partner relationship with the authorities. Novak didn’t apply, Tennis Australia did.”
He said his brother had been taken to an isolation room at Melbourne Airport on Wednesday night and had only been allowed to contact family for the first 45 minutes.
After that, the Djokovics claim the tennis star’s mobile phone was taken away and he was denied communications for the next three-and-a-half hours.
“He was taken to a migrant hotel to a dirty room without any belongings, which he was told would be returned to him upon his return to Europe,” Djordje Djokovic said.
“He was treated like a criminal while he is a healthy and decent man and a sportsman who has not endangered anyone’s life and has not committed any federal or legal offence.”
Djokovic’s father, Srdjan, addressed Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison directly, using the informal ‘you’ in Serbian.
“You, famous Prime Minister of the faraway naturally beautiful country, are behaving according to your own principles, which have nothing to do with us and our principles,” he said.
“We are humans, and you, sir, are not.”
Djordje Djokovic thanked Serbian authorities for their help in trying to “free” Novak.
He also read a message from Novak Djokovic: “God sees everything. Moral and ethics as the greatest ideals are the shining stars towards spiritual ascension. My grace is spiritual and theirs is material wealth.”
Calling the public to a rally in support of Novak Djokovic outside the Serbian parliament, Srdjan Djokovic invoked religious references the day before Orthodox Christmas which the family celebrates.
“Jesus was crucified on the cross … but he is still alive among us. They are trying to crucify and belittle Novak and throw him to his knees,” he said.
Srdjan Djokovic later repeated many of his fiery statements at the parliament rally, again referred directly to Mr Morrison.
“We are part of the freedom-loving world, more than 7 billion of us cannot be the prisoners of these … the very name says it all about their Prime Minister, Scott Morrison,” he said. The word ‘skot’ is derogatory in Serbian.
He said people across the Balkans, the Middle East, the Far East, Russia, China, India and Africa were supporting his son. “Novak is our providence – he shows nothing is impossible when you really wish for it.”
Djokovic’s father ended the rally by inviting the crowd to return on Friday.
The press conference was broadcast live by the Tanjug news agency on the state-affiliated B92 website. The location chosen – the Novak restaurant in Belgrade – is owned by Djokovic.
Spanish daily sports newspaper Marca carried coverage of the press conference, highlighting Srdjan Djokovic’s “direct attack on Australia”.
Serbia’s Telegraf, in an incendiary opinion column, dubbed Djokovic “Novikron”, a play on Omicron. “He will be their nightmare day and night ... he will be their lifelong NOVIKRON,” the paper said.
Addressing Djokovic, it said: “Champ, you’re guilty as they haven’t found a vaccine
against you as yet, but vaxxers with racquets have already lined up.”
‘A sacrificial lamb’
Djokovic’s mother Dijana said the star had been lauded at previous Australian Opens.
“This is now a political point – it is scandalous. [He is] in a dirty room, without contact with us. This is purely a political attack on Novak Djokovic.”
She called Djokovic a “sacrificial lamb” and a “revolutionary who is changing the world”.
“I hope they won’t clip his wings as they had intended,” she said. “We will give him power and energy with prayers and kind messages to remain true to himself.”
Djokovic is being held in hotel detention in Melbourne until at least Monday, when a Federal Circuit Court judge will decide whether to stop the federal government deporting him.
Sasa Ozmo, a Serbian tennis reporter known to have a close working relationship with the superstar, said Djokovic had requested to be detained in a rented apartment, but that request had been refused.
He also said Djokovic had reported having “bugs” in his room at the Park Hotel in Melbourne’s inner north.
Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic told reporters in Belgrade on Thursday that Djokovic needed to move to a rented house where it was possible for him to train.
Mr Vucic described the Park Hotel as “infamous”, believed to be a reference to its history housing asylum seekers and other immigration detainees.
Vucic said a series of calls between government officials, including Home Affairs Minister Karen Andrews and Serbian Premier Ana Brnabic, had taken place.
Earlier, messages of support were posted to social media from a raft of big names in Serbian sport and culture.
Red Star Football Club was among those to tweet “support for the best! Nole, your Zvezda is with you.” Zvezda means “star” as in Red Star.
Imposing vaccine mandates on visiting tennis players might have made sense when Australia was successfully maintaining zero COVID, but when we’re notching up 60,000 cases a day, it’s just silly. Besides, the guy has famously already had the virus.
So, we let him fly across the world, put him through the wringer for an unnecessary exemption from tennis and state officials, then bang him up in at the airport for hours and hours while technocrats run the ruler over his visa.
Then we turn around and proudly announce to the world that having granted him permission to enter, we’re now turfing him out at the eleventh hour, with Scott Morrison smugly tweeting that “rules are rules”.
Sure, no one likes special favours for the rich and famous, but Djokovic was given an exemption by two medical panels – do we really think him running around Melbourne Park is some huge threat to our health? We’re already 91 per cent vaccinated – he’s not convincing anyone to avoid the jab.
This is unapologetic border security theatre, which has a long history in Australia and has now been neatly joined by the circus of public safety theatre. It’s no coincidence John Howard’s famous phrase “we will decide who comes to this country and the circumstances in which they come” was also uttered in the lead-up to a federal election.
But it is fairly remarkable that even the heft of the world’s No. 1 tennis player and all that comes with it could not overcome Australian politicians’ instinct to use borders as a weapon at every turn. At least this time it’s a rich athlete, not a refugee.
This international scandal will be enormously damaging to Australia – not just as the host of one of tennis’ four grand slams but as a potential destination for anyone. Who wants to come to a country where you can be welcomed one minute, then publicly humiliated and deported the next, all for the sanctity of “the rules”?
It’s a cliched observation now but the old lies we love to tell ourselves about larrikin Australians who thumb their noses at authority have been not just betrayed by this pandemic but killed, buried and cremated. The fact this Djokovic decision will probably be popular just shows how subservient to Rule Culture we have all become.
It would have been great to see a hangdog Novak on a flight back to Belgrade, head in his hands, defeated in the final by Alex de Minaur or whoever. But now we won’t get the chance of that satisfaction – slim as it was – just the false thrill of sending someone packing on a technicality.
And the tournament – and its eventual winner – will be all the worse for it.