In the streets of Belgrade and with a megaphone in hand, Srdjan Djokovic he harangued dozens of people protesting the Australian government’s decision not to let Novak Djokovic enter their country because he was not vaccinated. “Jesus was crucified, but he is still alive among us. Now they are trying to crucify and belittle Novak and bring him to his knees (…) He has become the symbol and the leader of the free world, the leader of the world of nations and poor and needy people, ”the tennis player’s father shouted.
Hours later, Jelena Djokovic, the woman of Nole, spoke for the first time on the subject. “The only law that we should all respect at all borders is love and respect for another human being. Love and forgiveness are never a mistake, but a powerful force, “he wrote on Twitter.
These statements by two of the closest people are a clear example of who Novak Djokovic is and what he represents, a tennis player who has devoured each and every one of the records but who, due to his outbursts, has always walked in a kind of limbo between the heaven and hell. Hero or villain, a dilemma that will become chronic after what happened this week in Australia.
Djokovic had received a green light from the Australian Tennis Federation, the AusOpen organizer, to be able to play the tournament without having to be vaccinated. However, when he arrived at the airport, the authorities told him no, that he was either vaccinated or could not enter the country. The issue has grown so fierce over the days that it has become a diplomatic issue, with Australia defending its health policy and Serbia feeling under attack. In the background, the debate on antivacunas, freedom and borders. And meanwhile, the protagonist is isolated in a hotel in the Australian city waiting for a judge to make a decision on his visa on Monday.
On the one hand, Djokovic is a tremendously proud guy and also the pride of a country, Serbia, where patriotism is almost non-negotiable. On the other hand, he is a deeply mystical man, whose mouth is filled when he speaks of inner peace and love, who follows homeopathic currents and who disdains vaccines. «Personally, I am opposed to vaccination and I would not want to be forced by someone to vaccinate me in order to travel, “he said a year and a half ago, at the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic.
At that time he was already one of the best tennis players ever, a highly respected man on and off the courts. But it was not always like this. Novak Djokovic had a hard time fitting into the elite world of tennis. Born in Belgrade in 1987, was one of the many children who grew up among the fratricidal bombs of the Balcane Wars. “I perfectly remember the bombings … having to run to shelter in basements,” recalled Djokovic himself in 2014. “They are images that linger in my mind and that helped me a lot to understand life as I understand it now. I am more generous, more grateful and resistant, having been able to overcome critical situations like those that my country experienced.
Djokovic is a Serbian patriot and dreams of a “Greater Serbia” in the Balkans. He is possibly the most famous Serbian in the world. And that, according to the journalist Sasa Ozmo, one of those who knows him best, annoys certain people in the Western world. «He comes from a small country with no tradition in tennis. With his successes he has changed the narrative and the perception in the world about the people of Serbia. However, there are people who want it “, explains the journalist.
That Serbian pride has been well evident this week in the protests led by Srdjan Djokovic, whose speeches have been infused with nationalist messages. ‘We Serbs are a proud European people. Throughout history we have never attacked anyone, we have only defended ourselves. That’s what Novak is doing now, our pride, our Serbian, the pride of the whole free worldSrdjan claimed. «My son is the Spartacus of the new world who will not tolerate injustice, colonialism and hypocrisy. He is in prison but has never been freer.
Anti-vaccines, homeopathy and yoga
That patriotism is accompanied by Djokovic’s deep mystical side. He has always been attracted to alternative medicine and discourses away from the mainstream. Djokovic does yoga and meditates even during tournaments. In WimbledonFor example, he sometimes sneaks away from the noise of the All England Lawn Tennis & Croquet Club to take refuge in the Buddhapadipa Buddhist temple, hidden among the lush trees of South London.
In 2010 he met the doctor Igor Cetojevic, who placed a slice of bread on his stomach to show him that gluten was the culprit for the fatigue he suffered from long matches. It was Cetojevic who introduced him to the spiritual world, a journey that later led him into the arms of the Spanish guru Pepe Imaz and his philosophy of Love and peace.
«I know some people who, through energetic transformation, through the power of prayer, through the power of gratitude, managed to turn the most polluted water into the most healing water, because water reacts to feelings »Djokovic went on to say in May 2020.
For all this, Djokovic’s position did not surprise many when they began to talk about vaccines against the coronavirus. “I have always been interested in human metabolism and in being in the best possible way to fight the virus,” said the player before passing the coronavirus and deciding not to get vaccinated.
That position is now finding it difficult to be the center of a farce that will perpetuate that fame of hero or villain. The Serbian is gaining many voices to his cause, but he is also receiving tremendous reproaches, including his own Rafael Nadal: “The only thing I can say is that I believe in people who know about medicine, and what they say is that we need to get vaccinated.”
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Hero or villain, the eternal dilemma with Novak Djokovic