Novak Djokovic, vaccination and Australia: the reasons for a diplomatic incident

The Australian Open tennis tournament could be played without its nine-time winner: Novak Djokovic has been detained in Melbourne by immigration services since his arrival on Wednesday evening. The visa of the Serbian world number one – who has always refused to say if he was vaccinated or not – has been canceled by the authorities, despite a medical exemption obtained to participate in the tournament (January 17 to 30). Threatened with deportation, he obtained a reprieve on Thursday until Monday. “La Croix” takes stock.

► What is the medical exemption that Novak Djokovic had announced to have obtained?

For months, “Nole” had cast doubt on his participation in the Australian Open because of the obligation to be vaccinated against Covid-19 to enter the country. The Serb, whose vaccination status is unknown, finally announced on Tuesday that he had obtained a medical waiver issued by the state of Victoria (where the tournament takes place) and theAustralian Tennis Federation for unvaccinated people.

→ ANALYSIS. The Djokovic case raises the question of the vaccination status of athletes

The reason for this exemption was not disclosed, the Federation invoking medical confidentiality. According to several media, it could have been granted due to contamination prior to Covid-19. The player had indeed tested positive in June 2020. According to the Australian daily The Age, it could have been contaminated again “At some point in the last six months”.

In Australia, this exemption was seen as preferential treatment, when the leaders of the Australian Open had promised the greatest firmness towards the unvaccinated. Wednesday, the Australian tabloid Courier Mail thus titled “You must be Djoking” (“You are joking”), a play on words around the name of the player, renamed “No-Vax” Djokovic. “If he is not vaccinated, he will have to provide acceptable proof that he cannot be vaccinated for medical reasons (…). If this proof is not sufficient, he will be treated like all the others. (unvaccinated) and sent home, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison had also warned at a press conference.

► Why was he, despite everything, turned away?

Despite this medical exemption, Novak Djokovic’s visa was finally canceled Thursday by Australian authorities upon his arrival in the country. According to The Age, contrary to what had been put forward at first, this refusal would not be linked to a visa error – the player would have presented a document which does not allow a medical exemption for a non-vaccinated person – but the reasons invoked by the Serbian to justify his supposed non-vaccination. “There does not seem to be a causal relationship between the fact that recently contracted the Covid and the fact that he was not vaccinated “, thus indicates the daily.

→ PORTRAIT. Winner at Roland-Garros, Djokovic on the road to the record

Novak Djokovic appealed against this decision. He was granted a reprieve until Monday. In the meantime, the Belgrade native is being held in a Melbourne hotel used by the government to hold people in an irregular situation. Several supporters gathered there to show their support, and at least one person was apprehended as the police tried to disperse the demonstrators.

► How did his arrest turn into the diplomatic incident?

The affair turned into a diplomatic incident after Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic regretted Wednesday evening on Instagram the ” bad treatment “ inflicted on Novak Djokovic by Australia. Thursday, Aleksandar Vucic went even further by denouncing “A political hunt”.

The Serbian authorities, he stressed, are doing “All they can” to help the world number one, specifying that Belgrade has contacted twice the Australian ambassador in Serbia and that the prime minister, Ana Brnabic, is to meet with a senior official of the Australian ministry of immigration and borders .

Belgrade intends to ask the Australian authorities to allow Novak Djokovic to stay in the house he had rented for the Australian Open and not in the hotel where he is currently and which the Serbian president has described “Infamous in the proper sense of the word”. The player’s father, Srdjan Djokovic, has also called for a demonstration of support in Belgrade.

► What is Novak Djokovic’s position on the vaccine?

The Serb has always refused to say whether he was vaccinated or not. “I’m going to keep the decision to get vaccinated or not to myself. I don’t want to be labeled pro or anti vaccine ”, he had declared at Roland Garros last April. The world number one, however, has never hidden his opposition to compulsory vaccination, repeatedly believing that everyone should be “Free” to make a choice.

→ EXPLANATION. Covid-19: what we know about the consequences for athletes

In June 2020, the Serbian had also been criticized after his contamination during the charitable tour he himself organized in the Balkans. “In Serbia, Corona is just a drink! “, he had fun at the start of this tournament, during which the barrier gestures had not been respected and which had ended up being canceled after the detection of several positive cases.



Incidents at OM, the reasons for the violence

A muscular exchange between players and discontented supporters, Saturday, January 30, in Saint-Étienne; hundreds of demonstrators a few weeks ago in downtown Bordeaux; further, seats torn off in 2018 in Lyon by ultras furious against the president, Jean-Michel Aulas … If demonstrations by supporters unhappy with football club leaders are commonplace, they generally remain within the limits the conceivable in terms of public order.

This was not the case, Saturday, January 30, when 300 to 400 ultras marched in procession towards the Commanderie, the headquarters of the Olympique de Marseille. A minority (around fifty according to the police) invaded the premises of the club and degraded them. Some stole equipment and damaged cars, others threw stones at the players who were training for the evening match against Rennes, which was finally canceled.

On Sunday morning, 18 people were still in custody, while the club decided to file a complaint by denouncing a “Unacceptable attack” and “An unjustifiable outburst of violence”. “It’s astonishment for all of us, employees, staff, players. We didn’t expect to see this whole savage horde come in and destroy everything ”, declared on Canal + the president of OM, Jacques-Henri Eyraud.

Containment exacerbates frustrations

What happened to turn a hostile parade into a virtual riot? “For weeks, we have seen a fed up with supporters because of the results. This has taken on an uncontrollable dimension here because of the sporting and social context, comments François Thomazeau, journalist, writer, author ofSecret history of sport (1) and Marseille at heart. “ To judge these excesses that I disapprove of, we must take into account the crazy passion of young Marseillais, some of whom do not have many other things in life than this club. And this not a lot of other things is further reduced by the health context ” which prevents the public from attending matches.

For Nicolas Hourcade, a sociologist specializing in ultras movements, this overflow is also due to the inexperience of the executives of ultras movements. “In a normal context, they would have written banners, launched smoke bombs and insulted the management from the stands, he explains. But there, we were in the street and they do not know how to control their troops. “ He too believes that we must take into account the context to comment on these outbursts that surprised everyone. “Football is bad, there is no more money and the managerial vision of clubs, companies supposed to bring in money, is becoming unbearable for lovers of their club. “

The transplant has never caught between the president and the ultras

In this jacquerie, President Jacques-Henri Eyraud, decked out during the procession with the unflattering qualifier in Marseille of “Parisian”, looks like the head of a Turk. The results of the club are in free fall (OM are sailing around the 7e place in Ligue 1, and remains on three consecutive defeats against Monaco, Lens and Nîmes), the locker room is divided and the Portuguese coach André Villas-Boas, appreciated by the supporters, has just announced that he does not plan to stay at the club after the end of the season.

→ PORTRAIT. André Villas-Boas, the man who ignites the Olympique de Marseille

The transplant has never taken between President Eyraud, a media man parachuted into the head of the club in 2016 by its American owner Frank McCourt, and the ultra-Marseillais. “Bernard Tapie was Parisian, but he was a common man, the complete opposite of Jacques-Henri Eyraud, who is one of those white-collar workers that we don’t really like in Marseille. where the tertiary sector is very weak ”, François Thomazeau analysis.

In a particularly clumsy way, Jacques-Henri Eyraud had declared on December 8, in a management seminar, that there were too many Marseillais within the staff of the club. “In terms of productivity, the impact of a defeat on the attitudes and behaviors of employees was strong, and that is not right”, he had declared. Words that were criticized a lot and for which he apologized, Sunday, January 31, on TF1. “I love this city, but I don’t condone this violence. Yes, I may have made mistakes, but they cannot justify the surge of hatred and violence that we witnessed yesterday ”, said one who was confirmed in his post by the club owner.


The longest day for TV rights

This Monday 1er February marks an important step in the matter of broadcasting rights for Ligue 1 and Ligue 2 matches, put back on the market following the defection of Mediapro. From noon, the Professional Football League will study offers from broadcasters for the TV rights to 80% of Ligue 1 and Ligue 2 matches, via two market consultations each comprising several lots.

→ THE FACTS. Break between Mediapro and the League, French football forced to reinvent itself

If a proposal from the American online sales giant Amazon, already positioned on the broadcasting of Roland Garros, is expected on a small part of the rights, the great unknown concerns the attitude of Canal +. The encrypted channel broadcast two matches per week, not affected by the call for tenders. But she intends to see the bill for these two meetings revised downwards before positioning herself on the whole. This could sterilize the Monday 1 award procedureer February, pending the lifting of this dispute, which is the subject of an appeal filed by the channel before the commercial court.