(Reuters) – 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 number one, 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-COVID-19 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.
“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 a capacity crowd in the Serbian capital city of Belgrade.
“When they opened they said, ‘you are more than free to do whatever you want’,” Matic added. “Before that tournament, there was a game 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.”
(Reporting by Rohith Nair in Bengaluru; Editing by Christian Radnedge)