United’s Matic defends Djokovic after Covid-19 positives in Adria Tour

Manchester United midfielder Nemanja Matic has defended his Serbian compatriot Novak Djokovic for hosting the ill-fated Adria Tour where a number of players, including the world No. 1, tested positive for Covid-19.

Djokovic was criticised for hosting the tennis tournament amid a pandemic after his coach Goran Ivanisevic and players Grigor Dimitrov, Borna Coric and Viktor Troicki returned positive tests over the two legs in Serbia and Croatia.

Players were seen interacting, embracing each other, playing basketball and partying like they did in pre-coronavirus days, but Matic said they were not required to adhere to any social distancing norms as Serbia had eased restrictions.

“People need to understand that the situation in Serbia was better than here (in England). The country allowed everyone to do whatever they want, everything was open, the shopping centres and the restaurants,” Matic told Sky Sports on Monday (June 29).

“So they started to live normal lives because our country was closed for three months completely. You were not allowed to walk on the street, you couldn’t leave your home, so it was different (than England).”

While some unofficial tournaments have been played without spectators in the stands, such as the Battle of the Brits exhibition tournament in London, the Adria Tour attracted about a daily crowd of 4,000 fans in the Serbian capital city of Belgrade.

“When they opened they said, ‘you are more than free to do whatever you want’,” Matic, 31, said.

“Before that tournament, there was a game (football derby between Belgrade rivals Red Star and Partizan on June 10) with 20,000 people and nobody said anything about that.

“I just wanted to say that it is not his fault that he made the tournament, he just wanted to help the players play competitions. I don’t see that he (did) something wrong.”  

Croatia’s retired NBA player Dino Radja also voiced support to Djokovic last week.

“An unbelievable amount of s*** on Novak these days,” Radja wrote on Facebook.

Last week, Djokovic issued an unstinting apology for organising the charity tournament. The 33-year-old Serbian said he is “so deeply sorry” that the tournament “caused harm”.

His wife Jelena has also tested positive after the couple travelled back from Croatia to Belgrade to be tested. – REUTERS, AFP

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