Novak Djokovic currently remains in the spotlight following his recent Australian Open debacle. With the Serb unvaccinated against coronavirus, and authorities fearing a backlash if they let the tennis world No 1 play, he was eventually deported from Down Under. And Cristiano Ronaldo was also the subject of controversy last year, though it wasn’t his fault.
Djokovic believed a medical exemption would enable him to play in the Australian Open and compete for a record 21st Grand Slam title.
Yet, in the end, he was kicked out of the country with immigration minister Alex Hawke intervening.
Djokovic has remained under scrutiny ever since, with many divided on whether the Serb should have been allowed to grace the courts.
And another big athlete in Ronaldo was also embroiled in controversy last year when he was strutting his stuff at Juventus.
In March 2021, health official Professor Matteo Bassetti – a virologist and director of the Infectious Diseases Clinic at the San Martino Hospital in Genoa – sparked a backlash when he claimed Ronaldo should get the jab earlier than others.
This, he explained, would act as a way of encouraging others to do the same.
He said on Instagram at the time: “We vaccinate all Serie A players (which are less than 600…) when the doses are up.
“I think adopting this solution is smart for three reasons.
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“It would avoid clusters that can then have repercussions with the world that surrounds each player.
“Problems in the championship with the risk of postponement of matches or, worse, of interruptions to the Championship would be removed.
“And a precise signal would be given to sceptics i.e. those who have doubts about vaccinating with an example given by those with a great communicative power and a profound influence on an immense number of people.
“For example: If Cristiano Ronaldo, an absolute and beloved champion, were vaccinated, who knows how many fans would follow suit.”
Many were unhappy, however.
The Instagram post sparked a big backlash, with Italy lagging behind in their vaccine rollout at the time.
Some patients who had cancer didn’t even know at the time when and if they’d be able to get the jab.
Many also urged the Italian authorities to focus on the vulnerable, especially given the country was the first epicentre of the pandemic.
At the time of Professor Bassetti’s comments, they’d recorded three million cases and nearly 100,000 deaths.
Since then, they’ve had over 10 million cases and suffered a devastating 144,000 deaths.
Italy, unlike the United Kingdom, still have restrictions in place.
Though they’ve emerged from a third-wave lockdown, cases are being regularly monitored by the government and the appropriate authorities.
Regions are also following a traffic light-style system, with restrictions dependent on hospital capacity and infection rates.
Regarding Ronaldo, it’s unclear whether the United star is vaccinated.
But his Manchester United manager, Ralf Rangnick, did recently implore all of his players to get the jab.
He said last month: ‘The Premier League will try everything to keep the league safe and the situation around the players safe.
“We have to encourage players to behave in a disciplined way with regard to contact. We have to make sure we keep most of the players vaccinated.
“As far as I know, we have a high record of vaccinated players at our club, but the past few weeks show that even if you are vaccinated two or three times you can catch the virus, especially the new virus.
“But you are protected from severe symptoms and most of our players who tested positive at least had very very weak symptoms and didn’t suffer.”
Djokovic, meanwhile, said he was ‘disappointed’ after his Australian Open incident.
“I’d like to make a brief statement to address the outcomes of today’s Court hearing,” he said.
“I will now be taking some time to rest and to recuperate, before making any further comments beyond this.
“I am extremely disappointed with the Court ruling to dismiss my application for judicial review of the Minister’s decision to cancel my visa, which means I cannot stay in Australia and participate in the Australian Open.
“I respect the Court’s ruling and I will cooperate with the relevant authorities in relation to my departure from the country.
“I am uncomfortable that the focus of the past weeks has been on me and I hope that we can all now focus on the game and tournament I love.
“I would like to wish the players, tournament officials, staff, volunteers and fans all the best for the tournament.
“Finally, I would like to thank my family, friends, team, supporters, fans and my fellow Serbians for your continued support. You have all been a great source of strength to me.”