The first Novak Fan group to be presented here is very special indeed. And while we simply have to start somewhere, this fan group made it so easy to spot them among the hundreds of thousands of cheers, heading towards Nole throughout the years. But this is just the beginning. We’ll try to introduce all the amazing fans and fan groups around Nole in the months to come.
The Novak Djokovic Fan Club isn’t only an international and well organized fan group, with representatives on almost every continent, but also a group of passionate, interesting and positive people, who spare no effort to make their voice and support for Novak heard. This is the Fan Club that launched several events and projects for Nole throughout the years, like the First #NoleFam Day in 2014 and many others. And while they maintained a steady support for Nole in every situation, win and challenge he was facing, it all started somewhere, sometime… right out of a spark of passion and giving proof to the saying that when one door closes, another one opens — While one internet fan page in Argentina, dedicated to Novak Djokovic, seized to exist, Silvina Funes, a young argentinian teacher and Novak’s admirer, decided to start a new Fan Club and became the founder of the Novak Djokovic Fan Club. Today, she is supported by her fellow team mates Mirjana Sladić, Aida and Jeannine, Marianne Begin, Christine Wong and the whole #NoleFam all over the globe.
We proudly present you their story and invite you to #MeetNoleFam!
NOVAK DJOKOVIC FAN CLUB QUESTIONS
1. You’re a #NoleFan since 2008, but the Novak Djokovic Fan Club has been established two years later. It would be so interesting to hear what the path was like from being a fan to becoming the founder and president of one of the most active Novak’s fan group?
I don’t really remember much about it. I just remember that I started helping a friend from here to create a group on Facebook about Nole because in Argentina there aren’t many news about tennis and even less about Nole. So at first we were just doing that: uploading info and photos. After Nole’s follow on Twitter, though, that changed. We were receiving a lot of questions and fans were interacting more with us, so I´ve felt that we need to be more “professional” in that moment because Nole was also following us, and that is basically how the idea to open a membership request was born. And later on, when Luciana decided to step out, I got full control of everything and became the President.
2. Could you share with us three best moments the Fan Club accounts for! Is it even possible to list only three? :)
This is really hard but the 1st one has to be of course meeting Nole here in Argentina in 2013. That was really one of the best days of my life.
The 2nd is when we gave Nole the #Nolefam Trophy (it took us months planning it).
And the 3rd one is participating in Desert Smash and LA Tennis Challenge Events. Working to raise money for NDF and to help children are our priorities.
3. The Novak Djokovic Fan Club has several team leaders and contributors, right? It would be great if you could introduce everyone, each in a sentence while telling us who they are, where they’re from, what they are doing in life, since when they’re part of the Fan Club and what they’re passionate about?
Team Leader USA, Mirjana Sladic: She is the most important one. She is from Sombor, Serbia but she lives in LA, USA. She is the Director of a surgery center (working after hours to be able to tako a day off in order to help us). She is passionate about her family, friends, helping others and supporting ND.
Team Leaders Mexico: Aida and Jeannine. They help me to develop some ideas (they were more involved before). Aida is a teacher and she is passionate about animals and tennis (all of them said tennis too). Jeannine works with computers and she is one of the best making videos of Nole. She is passionate about her family, friends, her country and music.
Team Leader France: Marianne Begin. She works with children (from 3yo to 9yo) in a school, as an animator. Besides tennis she is passionate about football and her job.
Team Leader Hong Kong: Christine. She is with us since the beginning, one of our oldest members. She is passionate about travelling and exploring the world. She works in the field of administration.
They are my closest team leaders. The others aren’t so active and I contact them when we need them.
4. Do you (and your team) play tennis or engage in any other sport?
Sadly no, I don´t play any sport. I know I should but I don’t have time, or the little free time I have I usually spend on updating the page or visiting friends/family.
But a few of the team leaders do play sports: most of them do play tennis and one started swimming this year.
5. The Novak Djokovic Fan Club was in the beginning a little different from now. Besides following Novak’s activity and informing about it, there have been many events and projects created. On your website there are 4 successfully realised projects – like the one for Novak’s birthday, the NoleFam day or the one sharing your passion for him trough NoleFam books.
– Does any of the mentioned projects hold more weight/is more important to you than the others?
This is a difficult question too, because the one we did for Novak´s birthday we could help animals and we always say that doing those kind of projects is our priority but it’s very difficult to realise them. But of course NOLEFAMDAY is probably the one we love and is the one that now has become a tradition and we try to engage more fans every year. The first time we did it we were blown away by how successful it was, we honestly didn’t expect such a reception, first for Nole and then from the fans.
– What are usually the steps for preparing such a project?
Idea: sometimes the most difficult thing is to think about what to do. We did a lot of things so far so I’m always trying to come up with something better.
Once I have an idea I present it to a few of my team leaders and after their input I develop the project.
If it’s something like the trophy, then we have to contact someone that has the power to help us. That always takes time to coordinate with these people because they are busy.
A fan or fans have to be willing to help us. Generally those projects cost money so I need that someone helps us with their generosity on that part. If the fan or someone accepts to help I start to develop the project further, based on their contribution. If we gather enough money – I would cover the costs myself but sadly I don´t have the funds, so I always depend on fans’ generosity.
Plan and set the date for the project to start the promotion if this is something the project requires.
If the project is something like the nolefam book or to collect messages for a video we try to at least give a month for others to participate because we know not everybody checks their social networks every day and also we all have real lives that are demanding, so we try to consider that too.
But basically everything takes months between the time an idea comes up and the moment we are ready to share it and then collect and edit it and then finally present it to Nole and Jelena.
6. Which project was the biggest and included the most fans? How many people have collaborated in it and from how many countries?
Besides NoleFamDay of course, in number of fans participating in the 24th Birthday celebration is the biggest, because we had 100 fans sending their wishes to Nole, and it was difficult to edit all of them and not missing anyone (because unfortunately that happened a few times with so many emails to check sometimes I skip a few unintentionally). But the NoleFamBook is really closed because we received 50 real letters and almost 100 for the design of the cover and the shirt. We asked fans that couldn’t send a real letter to Argentina to send their photos or make those designs. We received messages from more than 30 countries, more or less.
This is quite an achievement, covering so many time zones, messages. You really did an amazing job!
7. How many different languages does the Novak Djokovic Fan Club speak… so to speak ? :)
I speak Spanish and English and our Team Leader speaks Serbian, and then the members from China and France help us with them if we need them.
8. How does a regular day look from the perspective of the Fan Club? And how does it compare to a match day of Novak’s?
First thing I do when I wake up is I check Instagram, Twitter and Facebook to see if there is any news about Nole. And during the day if I can I do it. If there is nothing urgent I update it properly at night when I get home.
During a match day it is more or less the same but I spend more time online checking scores and uploading photos or videos. To prepare a post for it takes a minimum of 2 hours, so sometimes I can´t update the website but I always try to upload the result on Facebook. And if I can watch the match, I always try to live-tweet it.
9. How many members does the Fan Club count and which nation is represented with the most members?
We have around 400 members. Of course Serbia has more members, but Brazil, Argentina and Vietnam are close behind.
10. We are so curious to hear some anecdotes or interesting stories from the time of the Club’s being? We would love to hear them!
When you live in Argentina it is weird to support Nole when we have Delpo and other tennis players here, so I am constantly responding to the question”Why Nole?” when fans/people know I have a fan club for him.
First time when I heard about our fan club in a program from RTS it was weird because fans were always saying to me that sometimes they mentioned the fan club during matches so watch it live (I woke up around 4am to see it) thanks to Aleksandar Stojanovic, who was awesome.
I don´t know what else to tell you because for me the most interesting stories are always the ones where other fans tell me how it was meeting Nole or watching him play or just talk with fans that love him as much as I do, it is something that sadly I don´t experience in real life, here tennis isn´t so popular.
NOVAK DJOKOVIC AND TENNIS QUESTIONS
11. What is your first memory of Nole?
This is really difficult because it has been so many years from since I became his fan but the first thing that comes to my memory of him is him playing during Australian Open and his family wearing those shirts with the word NOLE.
12. What is your favorite photo of Novak, if you could choose one? :)
I thought that this was going to be difficult but actually it wasn’t. It is the photo from Indian Wells 2012 that put me in contact with Mirjana Sladic for the first time, and since then she has become one of my dearest friends and very important for the Club.
13. Which is your favourite trophy Nole won?
Roland Garros 2016, of course. When he lost in 2015 I cried along with him so I knew how much that meant to him and how much it costed him in energy at the end. I think he could beat not only his opponent but also himself.
14. Which is your favourite match, Novak has played in?
This is hard because I love all the matches when he wins easily or when he wins tournaments. For me I have to choose the Australian Open Final vs Nadal in 2012. I woke up at 4-5am to watch the match, and then I had to go to church. I was following the live score and was so nervous, so when I came back home and I saw the match was still on I couldn´t believe it. And of course, I was happy I could watch him win after such a long battle with Rafa. Plus I think that it’s the only one my mom always remembers.
But thinking about him and his tennis career it has to be the one at the US OPEN semis vs. Roger Federer when he was 2 sets down and won the match. It takes a lot of mental strength to win a match like that one, it isn´t common to come back from 2 sets down. And also because our team leader USA, Mirjana, was sitting next to Nole’s box and had few official drinks but we were crying at the end over the phone about how happy and proud we were of Nole. Plus, for most of the Nolefam when he beats Roger it is special.
15. What do you like the most about Nole? (his character, his temper, the values he stands for, anything concerning his look maybe)
It has to be his love for the fans because it shows how good he is. Also his sense of humor and how much he wants to make the world better helping others. The work with his foundation or collaboration with anything related to lending a helping hand is amazing. And his eyes are what I like the most about him, he shows his love with them (I almost died when I met him and his look was expressing so much love).
16. What is your most precious Nole moment from on- and off-court… The one you cherish the most?
Off-court it is meeting him. Everything I had heard from other fans who met him was true: he really loves his nolefam and he is the best hugger.
On-court: when his grandpa died and he still played and won. I totally wanted to be there and give him a big hug. Losing a grandparent is really hard but he showed his strength in that moment.
17. Do you have any cheering ritual(s)? If yes, could you share it with other fans? (A photo or video would be awesome) :)
If I am lucky enough to be at home (lately due to work and study I’m missing a few) I always put my Serbian hat on and some of the Nole´s shirts that I own (all gifts from a fan because they don´t sell it here and I don´t have money to buy them). And I have to have my phone with me and one of my cats. If I won´t be able to watch it at home I make sure to wear a Nole shirt that day. (The big poster I got from Head Tennis Officines, I carried it on my own on a bus and a train).
18. You surely are in close contact with many fans of Novak. How do you see our #NoleFam?
Well, I see that now there are different groups: the older ones and the younger ones. The older ones have a different point of view about some things because we experienced different things with Nole, the new ones don’t know how Nole was before and they only saw when he was in a super winning streak so they are used to different things than us. I also see how some are a little disrespectful and start attacking others, but sadly that is something that is happening everywhere on social media. But one thing that we all have in common is that we love Nole and when he needs us more we are all there showing our support and are willing to participate in projects. I feel that we are special too because no other player shows his love for his fans like Nole does all the time.
19. What’s the most precious NoleFam moment or memory you remember? And why is it so precious?
There are a lot of good moments but probably the most precious for me is the one from a few years back when I was being cyber-bullied with horrible messages and I thought of closing everything but a lot of fans showed me their love and that there are more good people than bad. Sometimes one forgets good people exist because the bad ones are louder.
20. What are your TOP 5 suggestions and advice for all new fans becoming part of our huge Fan Family?
1 – Accept that Nole isn’t God, and he isn´t perfect.
2 – He is a joker and he always is going to make a joke, so you should enjoy that and laugh with him.
3 – Respect everybody: everybody has different opinions so you can´t force anyone to think like you.
4 – Try to always share positive things.
5 – Nole can´t win everything, so you always have to show him support no matter what. We don´t love him just because he can win trophies, we love him because he makes us happy, so we always need to show him that.
21. If you had to describe NoleFam in 5 words, which ones would you choose?
This is funny, because we actually are going to ask the fans on #nolefamday to do the same but in 4 words because it is the 4th nolefamday, hehe. So my words are: lovely, respectful, dedicated, joyful, family.
22. If you would organize a #NoleFam meet-up for all fans, where would it be held and how would it look like? What would be the highlights?
It would be in New York because we could go to US OPEN and watch him play a real match and see him win, of course. Then he takes us to Central Park where we can train a little with him so he can show us how good sport is and also feel the nature and enjoy the beautiful view. And as surprise for him we would make a flashmob and we all would be dancing in the middle of Central Park.
23. We found out that Novak’s and Jelena’s engagement in child education has inspired you to become a teacher. Passion for Kids and their education is the main focus of the Novak Djokovic Foundation (NDF). Which of NDF’s project do you consider as the most important and why?
Schools of Life because here there are a lot of schools that are in awful condition and I think that shows that the State doesn´t care about that, so if you guys rebuild schools, that shows children that someone cares and loves them. Plus having better conditions also helps teachers to make their work better and focusing on teaching instead of being worried about leaks on the roof or broken windows from which kids would catch a cold in winter.
24. You yourself are professionally working in education, right? Do you follow NDF’s activities? If yes, could you describe their work in 5 words?
Yes I m an english teacher and I work with children and adults too. I try to follow them as much as I can, love all of them and especially the blogs from different people. Inspirational, important, full of love, inclusive and empowering.
25. A few days ago NDF launched a project called #Sportin1Word which focuses on spreading the awareness about how important sport is for peace and development. What do you think? How important is physical activity for the development of children?
In this era it is very important. I remember when I was a child being always outside playing with my neighbors or at school and now it is rare to see kids playing outside, so having programs focusing in how important sport is are great. Physical activity for the development of children is very important because it prevents them from become sedentary and it develops their minds and gives them a sense of teamwork.
SERBIA RELATED QUESTIONS
26. We just cannot go around asking you about your knowledge of Serbian language. In the video you prepared for Novak’s 24th birthday you were telling your wishes for him in almost perfect Serbian. How did you learn those words and their pronunciation that it sounded so good? Did you have any help from somebody? Have you learned something else in Serbian meanwhile?
I’m really impressed that you are asking me about this and that my pronunciation was good, so thanks. The part for that video was kinda easy, the one I did for Nole’s birthday chain was more difficult because it was longer. Serbian fans helped me with the first one: one recorded it and I then repeated it for a week and they were telling me what I was saying wrong and how to say it properly. During that time I talked via skype with Serbian fans a lot so they taught me things in Serbian and I returned the favour in Spanish. Sadly later on our schedules weren´t compatible to keep doing that. For the video chain I was studying Serbian online with “Learn Serbian by Marina Petrovic” who gave me 3 months of free lessons for being the president of NDFC, but that time I was so nervous recording a video in Serbian, but the process was the same: they record the message in serbian and I repeated it. I could surf Serbian pages and understand a lot by that time but now that I stopped practicing I only remember things to cheer Nole or for the holidays. I hope I can keep learning Serbian someday, it´s one of my goals because I´d love to go to Serbia but also we could launch our website in Serbian too. I also listen Serbian songs, that helped me too, Moja mala nema mane is one of my fav.
27. Since the beginnings of the Fan Club you surely met many of Novak’s colleagues from Serbia. What is your impression of us? :)
In my experience you are very similar to us, so that is why I think I get along with you. When I went to celebrate the Orthodox Christmas here 2 years ago with the Serbian community I could see that what I always heard about Serbians and your food was true: you prepare a lot of food and you love to share. I also admire you because most of you survived a lot of difficult times and you are treated like the bad ones from many countries, but you have a fighting spirit that is very impressive and I admire you for that. Also you are what we called “fiesteros” here, just like us, you like to have fun. Another thing I admire in you is the respect you have for your country/customs/religion because that is one thing we are losing.