sport


Thursday Thirteen

I modified my last post from 24th March into TT post cause I think it should be exposed to wider blogging audience. So here it is:
1. Last night I went in bed with huge smile on my face. It was amazing watching how Serbs Ana Ivanović and Novak Djoković have took titles in Pacific Life Open in Indian Wells! Serbian fans on the stadium wore “NOLE, ANA, JELENA” t-shirts, this time no one has been punished but the banner “Kosovo is Serbia” has been confiscated, on the grounds that the banner was a political statement (I guess “Texas is USA” would be taken in the same way). Novak made a taped speech last month for a rally in Belgrade in which he spoke against Kosovo’s independence.

Ana & Novak

 

2. “The people who know my past and they understand what I’m saying — my father and my aunt, my uncle all grew up there. They were born in Kosovo and my family used to live there for 30 years. I was there many times. So it kind of touched me in that moment that this was my quest to give support by my country.” said Djoković.

3. Last week, the swimmer Milorad Čavić, who was born in California to Serbian parents, was barred from the European championships after wearing a T-shirt that said “Kosovo is Serbia,” in Cyrillic letters, at the medal ceremony after winning the 50-meter butterfly. “I’m really sad to hear about this. It’s hard because we are athletes and trying to do the best we can on the court and promote our country in the best possible way,” Ivanović said about the Čavić’s case (I wrote about that HERE).

4. And it was fantastic to see those youngsters who have managed to conquer hearts of so many people all around the world.

5. And then this morning I’m turning on my radio expecting to hear news from tennis court I was frozen by the sound of air raid emergency siren! It was horrible flash back and it took me few moments to realize that today is 9th anniversary of the NATO War of aggression against Serbia.

6. I remember that day I didn’t want to leave my flat in Belgrade naively believed that international law is supreme value and that no one will attack sovereign European country without permission of the Security Council UNO (the only institution which has mandate to bring that decision). Moreover I didn’t believe it’s possible that NATO will broke its own statute which said that alliance will go in military action only if the country, member of the alliance is jeopardized by some third (non member) country. But then I simply didn’t think that international law doesn’t exist if USA wants that.

7. So I decided to leave Belgrade to calm my parents and I remember my shock when I arrived on the main bus station which has been completely covered with people sleeping with their luggage on the floor. It was impossible to reach the counters. My god I never saw anything like this before.

8. Anyhow that evening I was visiting my friend, drinking coffee and chatting about something trivial and in one moment we stopped talking. “Was that detonation?” and soon after that we heard air raid sirens. It was unbelievable.

9. 78 days of bombing killed about 3000 civilians; destroyed infrastructure of the country; helped Milosević’s regime to achieve what he couldn’t for so long: kill free press, put in jail everyone who was publicly expressing different political opinion; put citizens in total misery.

10. Official cause for bombing was massacre in the village of Racak. After bombing UN commission of forensics and pathologists confirmed that there was no massacre. Those bodies were in unnaturally positions in the cloths that don’t match the wounds on the body. It was confirmed what Serbs officials were claim that those are terrorists dressed post mortem in the civilian clothes. Naturally that was irrelevant. Of course now we see the true purpose of NATO aggression: making Kosovo independent.

11.

12. One might think 9 years would be enough for wounds to heal but I don’t think that will ever happen. When I heard sirens this morning I couldn’t pick up myself entire morning. 9 years and yet, as if it was yesterday. No I wasn’t afraid, I wasn’t afraid during the bombing neither. I never went in shelter or something like that. I was in despair and filled with anger and in the same time incapable to do anything. And that state of mind is worse than anything you can imagine. This morning I realized that state of mind is somewhere inside me, waiting to be awaken.

13. If you were me, would you be able to forgive? (is this question makes me a bad person, or at least a bad Christian? If so, I’m wondering where is the limit of human ability to forgive?)

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CavicEuro champ Milorad Čavić, Serbian swimmer has been banned from European Swimming Championship in Eindhoven and became first sportsmen in the history who has been banned from the competition by the LEN because of the issue other than doping.

His ‘crime’ was to wear a t-shirt declaring that ‘Kosovo is Serbia’ (in Serbian language and Cyrillic letters) when on the podium receiving his gold medal for the 50m butterfly, in a European record of 23.11 (beating his own record from semifinal); A letter of protest was received from “an unnamed party” and of course he has to be punished because t-shirt “contained a political message”. LEN officials even said that he violated rules by carrying Serbian flag on podium completely neglecting that organizers didn’t have Serbian flag on medal ceremony and that they have used reversed Russian flag which is not the same as current Serbian.
It is amazing how politics of double standards is applied on every field!

The European swimming governing body (LEN) didn’t do anything after scandal in the final match of European Water polo Championship in Slovenia 2003 when the Serbian players and fans including President Boris Tadić and minister of foreign affairs Goran Svilanović were brutally attacked! They even had to jump in the pool to save their heads. The match was between Serbia and Croatia and since the Serbs were targeted no punishment was necessary.

I’m not person who is thinking about secret conspiracies and I could understand this might sound paranoid but there are simply too much similarities!

Without expressing my political opinion and intention to offend anyone I’m wondering would you react the same if the message was “Free Tibet” or “Flanders is not Belgium” or even “Kosovo is Independent”? Or, since Čavić is Serb born in USA and lives in Florida what if he had won gold for US and wore the same t-shirt? Surely nothing like this would happened.

Lets think if they had to punish him was it necessary so drastically? 7000 euros for Serbian Swimming Organization and official warning wasn’t enough? Or was his potential the main criteria in making this shameful decision? Namely (with best result) he was the main candidate for gold in 100m butterfly; the other discipline was 100m freestyle.Cavic

“I’m afraid of the worst,” Čavić told The Associated Press in Thursday. “A suspension is the worst they can do to me. That is the death sentence.” And of course they heard him.

“What is my wearing a shirt going to do to change the minds of the United States, United Nations or European Union,” he said. “This is already a done deal. All I wanted to do was uplift my people. My only role here was to be a leader and transfer positive energy. I didn’t do it to provoke anger, I didn’t do it to provoke violence,” Čavić said. “The country is torn apart and . . . my goal was just to uplift them.”

And you did, Milorad. I’m horribly sorry for the price you are paying and hope you’ll be able to stay focused on Beijing. After this maybe even more!

Good luck and thank you!

The Best Of Serbia!

The word naj in Serbian is in combination with some adjective use to amplify that adjective (good or bad) but when it stands alone it always means the best! These days (well the whole last year) it was the best association with Serbian tennis players (the best Serbian brand for sure)!

Yesterday Belgrade Arena was full (20000 spectators) and occasion was Humanitarian spectacle “NAJJ Srbije” (the best of Serbia).

N is for Novak Djoković (world #3)
A is for Ana Ivanović (world #4)
J is for Jelena Janković (world #3)
J is for Janko Tipsarević (world #52)

These four were I think for the first time together played in a front of their own people and our hearts were full while we were watching them. Arena was sold out and all money has been divided in four parts, every player has donated her/his part to some charity: mainly for children of Kosovo and Hospitals; UNICEF; etc.

We saw our stars in little different light. Of course the result was irrelevant so I’m not going to mention it but their singing skills were equally good!
Their sense for humor is great and they’ve made that evening unforgettable.

Indeed this was tennis event so we saw our best juniors as well but also famous singers and actors have their part as well. (Maria Sharapova and Robert de Niro should be there as well but I’m not sure about that. They were both cheering Novak at the final of US Open this year and have confirmed their arrival).

Once again thank you!

 

NAJJ

You would think that the sport is on the very last place in minds of Palestinians with all hell they live in. Oh but that’s very incorrect! They will drop everything they are doing to watch they national football (soccer) team and instantly forget all problems. Palestinian sport commentator has described their bid to qualify to World Cup 2006 as “one of our most beautiful dreams.”

Goal DreamsGoal Dreams, lovely film directed by Maya Sanbar and Jeffery Saunders is telling us the emotional path of the Palestine national team while its players are gathering from all over the world to play under the same flag and represent their nation on the international stage. It is quite unique story and is showing in very untraditional and very original way Israeli-Palestinian conflict and its effect on the lives of Palestinians.

The team is on the preparation in Ismailiya in Egypt for the crucial match against the national team of Uzbekistan which supposes to be held in 30 days in Qatar (because of obvious reason it can’t be in Palestine). The team’s coach, Austrian Alfred Riedl is having numerous problems.“We are unique in the world; we don’t even have a country! We have to practice here [Ismailiya]… we don’t know what we are, who we are?” said Mr. Riedl but that’s hardly his only problem. Namely 30 days before the match the team is short several players (mostly the ones from Gaza). Players who are there aren’t speak the same language; there is one New Yorker who speaks English only of course; few from Santiago de Chile among them one speaks English; one from Madrid, Sweden, a few from Egypt who speak Arabic; later is coming one from Lebanon who speaks Arabic as well. And there are missing players from Gaza (Arabic). Coach is speaking English (and is cursing in Serbian which was such a huge surprise and the whole audience has burst of laughing. We asked Mr. Saunders who was guest of the festival does he have an explanation but he didn’t) so it was kind of Babylonian Tower in small. Just imagine the final version of coach’s words after passing the process of three translations!

The basic idea with gathering players for the team was their origin. They had to be Palestinians in any (even stretched sense) so many of them were for the first time in the region (not in the land) where their ancestors were born many, many years ago. Naturally all of them were bringing different way of thinking, different mentality, different cultural heritage but also very different style of playing soccer.

So the story follows the days in Ismailiya but also we are moving in New York or Chile or Lebanon to see lives of expatriated Palestinians and how they are preserving that core of who they really are. The player from Lebanon introduces the audience to the reality of life in Palestinian refugee camps, with the scarcity of work and opportunities as well as the daily struggle for survival.

Naturally the worst situation is with the part of the team which supposes to come from Gaza. Israeli part of the border is closed and no one has idea when it’ll be reopened. They are trying several times to cross the border and each time they (along with hundreds of other people) had to go back. Once there were gun shooting at the frontier and guys didn’t even raise their eyes to see what’s going on; they were sitting and joking like nothing is happening around them. One of them said “Oh this is nothing unusual; this is part of our everyday life. We could have a training drill here while waiting”. I must say that I recognized Serbian mentality in these words.
And the time is passing. So 10 days before the match the team still doesn’t have enough players and the ones who are there are in linguistic mud.
So the coach’s mood is in one moment filled with determination to make a strong team capable to win qualifying match and in the next moment is like broken under incredible obstacles his team is facing with.

“Goal Dreams” is a testament to the power of the Palestinian dream and to the Palestinian people’s ability to hold onto the hope in spite the horrifying reality in which are living.
One of the last scenes in the film is showing player from Lebanon and behind him huge Adidas billboard with David Beckham and the message Impossible is Nothing.

Thursday Thirteen

1. What is your first association about Serbia? From my experience while I was traveling through Europe or attending in some international summer schools abroad majority (especially non Europeans, especially North Americans) don’t have a clue where Serbia is, moreover lots of them miss even the continent! Other minority who knows about Serbia knows about civilian war, collapse of Yugoslavia, war criminals etc. And only few knows Serbia thanks to some good things, mainly thanks to sport.

2. I just reminded myself when I was in Madrid two years ago, I asked police officer in Palacio Real to take picture of his hat (they have hilarious hats) but it wasn’t possible. He asked me where I’m from and when I replied Serbia he instantly asked me “Are you fan of Crvena Zvezda (Red Star) or Partizan?” I was in shock literally! (those are two sport clubs with great rivalry between them). I said Red Star and then he asked me “Who are your favourites basketball players?” When I replied he said “Oh? But many of them played in Partizan!” Yes but all of them played for Serbia. Point is that policeman knew much better Serbian basketball scene than me (as he said he “adores Serbian basketball”) which impressed me. And this will be this week’s TT topic. Serbian Sport!

novak3. It might be huge topic and that’s why I’d like to write only about Serbian Tennis Miracle!

Namely, last weekend was a Serbian Weekend in Tennis: Novak Djokovic won Roger’s Cup, Canada Open (wining #3, #2, and #1 (Rodick, Nadal & Federer) respectively, first time after Boris Becker 1994 in Stockholm; And first player who defeated both Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer in the same tournament). Ana Ivanovic knew that Novak Djokovic had already beaten Roger Federer before she took the court for the final at the East West Bank Classic, Los Angeles:
“I was motivated to do the same thing,” she said and she did exactly that.

4. Start of this Serbian tennis boom was at last French Open – Rolland Garros where Serbia has four players in semis: Djokovic was in man single semis, Jelena Jankovic in woman single semis and in other semis and later in the final we had Ana Ivanovic; in man doubles and in mixed semis and later in final we had Nenad Zimonjic. 5. Later on Wimbledon Novak and Ana played in semis and Jelena won title in mixed doubles.

ana

6. For such a small country like Serbia with quite modest tennis history this is enormous success. Moreover now we have two women in top 4, man on third place and one in fifth place in doubles in the world!
But it wasn’t that easy to achieve all this.

7. Ana Ivanovic started in swimming pool, but no, not as a swimmer. “It’s a club where they had Olympic swimming pool, and then it was very expensive to keep it warm during the winter, and there was not many people using it. So they emptied the swimming pool, and they put carpet inside, and they placed — (laughing) it’s true. They placed two tennis courts and that’s where I grew up practicing.” said Ivanovic.

8. And then there was 1999, year thanks to which many in the world actually have heard about Serbia: NATO aggression:
It was really tough. I thought it would be impossible to continue, because we didn’t know how long it was going to go on. We were practicing in between air raid sirens, often in the early mornings to avoid the worst of the bombing.

jelenaAnd also, after that, we had troubles to travel, because we had problems to get visa to another country. And we didn’t have flights from Serbia. We had to go from Hungary, so we’d take a bus for six, seven hours just to catch a flight. So it was very tough, and I thought it would be really impossible to succeed.

 

9. God knows how many heavy bombs, depleted uranium and cluster bombs were dropped on our lovely little country back then. We usually joke that we became radioactive in 1999 and now have become immune to that but the Europeans haven’t, therefore they fear us and don’t want us around. LOLana, novak & jelena

10. Jelena said that precisely those heavy years have strength them and made them more focused. “We didn’t have the best stuff, but we got to see the best, we appreciated it,” Jankovic said of the hardships they faced. “We learned to work the hard way. Nothing is going to fall from the sky. You have to earn it.”

11. On the press conference someone asked Jelena: There seemed to be some kind of Serbian magic at work. Jelena giggled her way through the reply:

A Serbian power or something, that wherever you go you see just Serbians (laughing). Wherever you go, it’s just Serbians all over the place, winning all these matches. It’s just incredible. I’m just proud of that…

12. So it’s definitively time for new picture about Serbia and indeed sportsmen are our greatest ambassadors. So watch out on these great folks; they … I wanted to say “are coming” but obviously they are already here!

(13. The last photos are from welcoming these three in Belgrade after French Open. They’ve made us so proud and happy)

ana, novak & jelena

ana, novak & jelena

P.S. #1
Yes I know both Novak and Ana have just lost their matches in single in Cincinnati and Toronto but you can’t win all the time. (yet?)

P.S. #2
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