Novak Djokovic’s Kosovo remarks condemned by the French Minister of Sports

Novak Djokovic hushes crowd

In response to Novak Djokovic’s statement that Kosovo was at the “heart of Serbia” in a message he sent after winning the first round of Roland Garros, France’s minister of sport slammed the 22-time Major champion on Wednesday.

Djokovic wrote “Kosovo is the heart of Serbia. Stop the violence” on a camera on Monday at Roland Garros amid clashes between ethnic Albanians and Serbs in the territory.

Kosovo, which is mostly populated by Muslim ethnic Albanians, seceded from the former Yugoslavia in the late 1990s and proclaimed independence in 2008—a decision that has not been recognised by Serbia.

In a message delivered on broadcaster France 2, French Sports Minister Amelie Oudea-Castera labelled Djokovic’s message “not appropriate, clearly”.

“There’s a principle of neutrality for the field of play.

“When you carry messages about defending human rights, messages that bring people together around universal values, a sportsperson is free to express them.

“But in this case it was a message that is very activist, that is very political. You shouldn’t get involved, especially in the current circumstances, and it shouldn’t happen again,” added Oudea-Castera, who is the former head of the French tennis federation.

The director of Roland Garros, Amelie Mauresmo, had communicated with Djokovic and his group, according to Oudea-Castera.

In clashes with ethnic Serb protesters on Monday during demonstrations against the election of ethnic Albanian mayors in northern Kosovo, thirty troops from a NATO-led peacekeeping force were wounded.

The European Union and other Western nations have urged calm amid reportedly rising tensions.

Djokovic has defended his message from Paris.

“Kosovo is our cradle, our stronghold, centre of the most important things for our country… There are many reasons why I wrote that on the camera,” Djokovic told Serbian media at Roland Garros.

“Of course it hurts me very much as a Serb to see what is happening in Kosovo and the way our people have been practically expelled from the municipal offices, so the least I could do was this,” added Djokovic, whose father was born in Kosovo.

Djokovic is chasing what would be a record-setting 23rd Grand Slam men’s singles title in Paris and will face Marton Fucsovics of Hungary in the second round on Wednesday evening.

The Roland Garros ethics charter forbids any expression of political or religious views. Still, neither organisers nor the French Tennis Federation have announced any intention to take disciplinary action against Djokovic for his statements.