Israel's wheelchair tennis team (left) pictured above with their Malaysians counterpart ahead of their meeting in the World Team Cup wheelchair tennis event at the Ariake Colosseum in Tokyo earlier this week. Israel was scheduled to face Moroccans yesterday, but they never showed..
(photo credit: ISRAEL TENNIS ASSOCIATION)
Politics reared its ugly head in sports once more on Thursday, this time at the World Team Cup wheelchair tennis event at the Ariake Colosseum in Tokyo.
Israel was scheduled to face Morocco in a Men's World Group 2 tie for positions 5-8, but the Moroccans never showed up,being ordered to forfeit by their local paralympic committee.
"This is a sad day for sports, and an even sadder day for paralympic sports," said Israel coach Nimrod Bichler. "Politics have mixed with sports in the past, but paralympic sports were always different." Israel's team, which includes Amir Levi, Adam Berdichevsky and Asi Stokol, was awarded a default 3-0 victory.
A total of 51 teams from 29 countries are competing in Tokyo in four categories: men, women, quad and junior. Israel began the tournament in Pool D, beating Hungary but losing to Malaysia, which showed up for the tie despite the lack of diplomatic relations between the countries. Israel finished the group in second place to progress to the playoff for 5-8 positions. Israel will face Poland for fifth place on Friday.
The World Team Cup, which celebrated its 30th anniversary in 2015, is the ITF’s flagship wheelchair tennis event, often referred to as the Davis and Fed Cups of wheelchair tennis. The initial event took place in California in 1985 involving six men's teams. The women’s competition began the following year, with quad and junior events introduced in 1998 and 2000, respectively. Due to the increased number of teams wanting to take part, the ITF introduced regional qualifying for the men's and women's events in 2012.
The ITF told The Jerusalem Post
in response to Thursday's incident.
"The ITF was established to, among other things, preserve the integrity and independence of tennis as a sport, and to do so without unfair discrimination on the grounds of color, race, nationality, ethnic or national origin, age, gender, sexual orientation, disability, or religion. In light of the report that the Moroccan team failed to play a scheduled match against Israel in Men’s World Group II of the ITF Wheelchair World Team Cup, we will contact the Moroccan Tennis Federation as a matter of urgency to establish the facts of this situation, and we will follow the relevant ITF Wheelchair regulations and the ITF Constitution, as necessary, to determine the appropriate action."