Djokovic mural destroyed months after locals shared fears over vandals

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A mural of Novak Djokovic has been defaced less than a year after it was painted in the town of Orahovac in Western Kosovo. On Tuesday morning, locals discovered that white paint had been thrown over the world No 1’s face overnight. It comes after many expressed fears that it would be tampered with when it first appeared in March of last year.

The mural first appeared in Orahovac 11 months ago as part of the ‘Colour in the Air’ project created by the Amici Di Decani organisation, in collaboration with the artist Milan Milosavljevic, who was tasked with painting the murals in places with a Serbian population in Kosovo and Metohija. But even when it was first unveiled, locals feared it would be defaced.

And less than a year after residents of Orahovac awoke to see a large portrait of Djokovic in the town, it has now been vandalised with white paint thrown over the world No 1’s face. Kosovo Online confirmed the news on Tuesday, saying the perpetrators were still unknown, while a Serbian official in Kosovo shared a more emotional statement.

“Kurti’s hooligans destroyed the mural of our @DjokerNole in Orahovac last night,” Petar Petkovic – Director of the Office for Kosovo and Metohija of the Government of the Republic of Serbia and member of the Presidency of the Serbian Progressive Party – alleged.

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“No matter how much hatred extremists have, they will never be able to undo the successes of [Serbian] the champion and the best tennis player in the world and his love for Kosovo and Metohija! When they don’t have their own, they destroy other people’s!”

When the mural was initially unveiled on the wall of a house opposite the Church of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Radio Gorazdevac reported that observers who gathered to see the portrait “did not believe that the mural would remain there for a long time” and were “afraid that someone from other nationalities in Orahovac will destroy it overnight.”

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One resident – known as Nikola – said at the time: “Everyone here loves Nole, everyone follows his every match and we all cheer.” Speaking after Djokovic had been deported from Australia on the eve of the 2022 Aussie Open, he added: “Now that all this is happening to him, about vaccinations, bans from playing in tournaments, suspensions…we love him even more and we can’t wait for him to play again at one of the Grand Slams and show them all there, for the thousandth time, who is the best.”

The full mural depicted Djokovic with a message written next to him in both Italian and Serbian saying: “There is no turning back, even to catch a run.”

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