Sports Stars Give Serbia A Voice

The Serbian swimmer Milorad Cavic who was banned from the European Championships after winning the Mens Butterfly for wearing a red T shirt with ‘Kosovo is Serbia’ written on it, lives in the United States, where he grew up. He attended UC Berkeley, which he chose for the quality of its swimming coach.

As a child he found that swimming races spoiled the time he spent in the swimming pool, but his father insisted he had to push on with his swimming due to his great promise. This is typical of many successful athletes, in that they are pressured into success by an ambitious parent. His parents moved to the US before he was born.

It is a little surprising to find that a second generation American with a big swimming career ahead of him feels so strongly about the goings-on in Serbia that he is willing to sacrifice the progress of his career. He said he understood the risks he was taking with the Sports authorities by carrying out his protest.

This report from EPSN tells the story –

Cavic, who was born in Anaheim, Calif., to Serb parents and trains in Florida, said Thursday he was just trying to send “positive energy” to the country he represents.

“I didn’t do it to provoke anger, I didn’t do it to provoke violence,” Cavic told The Associated Press. “The country is torn apart and … my goal was just to uplift them.”

Serbia’s Minister for Sports Snezana Samardzic-Markovic called the decision “scandalous.”

“Cavic did not wear a T-shirt with portraits of war crime suspects, he was not calling for violence or breach of international conventions,” Samardzic-Markovic said. “I have to remind everyone that Kosovo is not recognized by most of world’s countries, or the United Nations, nor by the International Olympic Committee.”

The United Nations has not formally recognized Kosovo, and Serb ally Russia — a veto-wielding member of the Security Council — has described the independence declaration as illegal. The IOC has said Kosovo cannot compete in the Olympics until it is formally recognized by the U.N.,

In truth the suspension of Cadic by the Europeans has ensured he gets maximum worldwide publicity for his demonstration, and he has done more to lift Serb spirits than any other event in recent weeks. Street demonstrations and the fighting in Mitrovica hardly got a mention in the media, but a sportsman in a T Shirt has hit the media spot.

Another top Serb sports personality Novak Djokovic spoke publicly of Serbia, after winning the Australian Open (which took place just before the EU took over the running of Kosovo), and he was later interviewed about the UDI of Kosovo on Serbian TV, inviting many Kosovan children to meet him in Belgrade to demonstrate his feelings about the potential loss of Kosovo.

Last week he again beat Spaniard Rafael Nadal in straight sets, and both he won the men’s tournament at Indian Wells on Sunday, and Ana Ivanovich took the women’s title giving Serbia a double. No comments from either of them were reported, or demonstration of their feelings about Kosovo and Serbia, but there was a big Serbian flag-waving contingent in the crowd much noticed by the commentators.

As reported on ESPN –

Ivanović beat Svetlana Kuznetsova of Russia earlier in the day in straight sets, 6-4, 6-3, for her first title this season.

Novak Đoković brought the second trophy to Serbia with his 2-1 win over American Mardy Fish. Đoković won 6-2, 5-7, 6-3 for the eight title in his career, the second this year.

They were cheered throughout by flag-waving compatriots perched high in the stands at the desert venue, DPA reported from the Pacific Life event.

Saturday, a day after Ana Ivanović made in to the women’s finals after beating compatriot Jelena Janković, Đoković beat world number two Rafael Nadal in straight sets.

It would not be surprising if Djokovic too made comments publicly about Kosovo on the world stage when he gets the right opportunity. It seems that the EU’s expectations that young Serbs will look beyond the loss of Kosovo towards EU membership, and vote accordingly is meeting with the opposite. The young understand that their national identity is threatened by the EU, and are showing spirited resistance.

From Yahoo News-

For good measure, third-seeded Serbian Jelena Jankovic made it to the women’s semi-finals, and Nenad Zimonjic was a doubles finalist.

One wag quipped that Indian Wells should be renamed Serbian Wells.

“This is something I think that we absolutely deserve,” Djokovic said. “We’ve been working very hard to throughout all of our lives, and this is just a crown for our work, and it’s paying off.”

He said he hoped his success and that of his compatriots on the tennis courts would buoy a country that is now in some turmoil.

“Considering the fact that our country is in a very difficult position, they are struggling economically and in politics as well, I just try to help my country as much as I can,” said Djokovic, who said he didn’t want to comment on the “Kosovo is Serbia” banner displayed by some fans in an upper deck of the stadium seats.

The black banner was on view during Ivanovic’s match but had been taken down for Djokovic’s – at the request of tournament organizers.

It was the same slogan that Serbian swimmer Milorad Cavic wore on a T-shirt while collecting a gold medal at the European Championships on Wednesday – a political comment that got him suspended from the event.

Kosovo’s ethnic Albanian-dominated parliament unilaterally declared independence from Serbia on February 17. Most Serbs consider the southern territory the cradle of their nation’s history, culture and religion.

Ivanovic, 20, said Cavic’s story saddened her, but she, too, was reluctant to be drawn into any divisive debate.

“I don’t know much about politics, and I don’t get involved in that area,” she said. “You know, when I’m out here playing, I just want to represent my country in the best possible way.

“Whatever’s happening, you know, it’s tough, but still, it’s very hard for me to say anything about it.”

Djokovic, who has been the biggest sports star in Serbia since his Australian Open triumph in January, has spoken previously about his heartache over the separation of Kosovo from Serbia.

His family has cross-border loyalties, his father Srdjan being Serbian, and his mother Dijana Montenegran.

He said then that his belief was that Kosovo was part of Serbia, and always would be.

Djokovic said he hadn’t encountered any repercussions from that video speech.

“I haven’t got any negative comments on that,” he said. “Of course, my life is my tennis, my life is sport. This is what I try to keep focused on.

“I know that people obviously look at me as a very successful athlete and the man who can bring a lot of positive energy to their country … but as I said before, I’m not trying to get involved in politics.”

From B92 website – Sweden’s representative at the Eurosong to be hosted in Belgrade claims, “I will sing in Serbian”. Maybe music will also provide Serbia with a voice. The contest will be held on the 20th,22nd and 24th May 2008 in Belgrade, after the elections on May 11th, hosted by Javana Jankavic and Zeljko Joksinovic, Pictured.

The Tap Blog is a collective of like-minded researchers and writers who’ve joined forces to distribute information and voice opinions avoided by the world’s media.

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