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Tuesday, 17 February 2009


There was a time when politics and sport were inextricably linked. Sports fans in the 1980s dealt with Olympic boycotts and the Apartheid in South Africa while chess, cricket and many other sports have fallen victim to political influences. To that list, and most regrettably in 2009, we can now add tennis.

Last week, Shahar Peer was excluded from the Barclay Dubai Championship in tennis because she is Israeli. The response to this exclusion was slow but thankfully the proposed censures have been severe. The organisers have claimed that to allow Peer into the tourament would have been a security threat and could have led to a boycott of it by fans (in light of Israel's recetn troubles with Palestine), since the United Arab Emirates has no diplomatic relations with Israel.

We all have our views on Israel's actions, but in this instance they are irrelevant. Sport is sport and politics is something else altogether. The focus is now on the UAE ahead of next week's Dubai Tennis Championships and whether they will allow doubles player Andy Ram enter one of the most lucrative tournaments on the tennis calendar.

For me, the most worrying aspect of this story is the local coverage. At 18:45GMT on February 17th I captured images from the webpages of two Dubai based newspapers, Gulf News and Gulf Today. There's no mention of this story on their front pages, but here are the images from the sports pages.
Sports Page, Gulf Today

Tennis Page, Gulf News

How can a people learn from mistakes if it's media do not educate them? This is a serious breach of ethics and has registered on an international scale, yet not, it seems, on a more local one. If Ram is not allowed to play next week then there must be sanctions, and not just within tennis.

The FIFA World Club Championship is scheduled move from Japan to Dubai from this year. What if an Israeli team or Israeli players are to qualify? Such an issue should not be allowed to happen. What if an Israeli player does well in the European Tour's Race to Dubai competition? If Dubai and other parts of the Arab world wish to place themselves at the centre of the international sporting universe, then they must (pardon the pun) play by the rules. If they choose not to do this, then sport should censure itself until they see the light.


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