Athletes oppose Israel Tennis Association decision to hold quarterfinal against Russia indoors at Tel Aviv's Nokia Arena.
By JEREMY LAST
Sports nearly always brings out the competitive side in people, especially professional athletes.
But one of the most undesirable and unattractive reflections of this attitude in pro sports is infighting, between players on the same team or between players and management.
When Israel's Davis Cup tennis team battled the odds, and dozens of anti-Israel protesters, to defeat Sweden in Malmo earlier this month and book a place in the quarterfinals for the first time in 22 years it was a time for unbridled celebration.
However the unity within the team that came about as a result of the 3-2 victory over the Swedes quickly turned sour following the news that the Israel Tennis Association had decided it would be best for everyone involved if the quarterfinal against Russia be played indoors at Tel Aviv's Nokia Arena.
All four players on the Israeli team - Andy Ram, Harel Levy, Dudi Sela and Amir Hadad - are reported to have opposed the decision, saying they would much prefer to play at the Ramat Hasharon Tennis Center as usual, where they feel at home.
It has also been said that the players prefer the hard court at Ramat Hasharon, which may unsettle the Russians, as could the July heat.
Over the past week a negative atmosphere has clouded the entire Israeli tennis community as the players and ITA management accuse each other of underhand tactics.
Sources close to the players have said that they believe the ITA is only looking to make a fast buck out of the tie, knowing that the indoor arena has a capacity of 11,000 - more than double that of the Canada Stadium in Ramat Hasharon.
However, ITA CEO Moshe Haviv has said the decision has nothing to do with money, and that the association simply has the fans' interests at heart.
Haviv told The Last Word on Thursday that hosting the three-day event at Nokia would give far more Israelis the chance to see the national team play and allow them to watch the sport in more comfortable conditions.
Haviv then added that it is really nothing to do with the players where the game is played. Would the Israel Football Association listen to protests from national team players if the venue for a World Cup qualifier was moved and they disagreed? he asked.
The CEO is right: It is up to the ITA where to play the tie and the players should show more appreciation for the opportunity to play in such a prestigious event.
Rumors that some of the players have said they would consider changing their mind if they are paid more money than usual for their participation just add an even more bitter taste to the situation.
In any event, is unlikely the ITA will be swayed and we should all be looking forward to the first Davis Cup tie to be played indoors in Israel since a first round loss to France at Yad Eliyahu in 1989.
The arena will no doubt be packed with screaming fans who will recreate the famously rowdy Ramat Hasharon atmosphere.
Hopefully, by then the whole dispute will have been forgotten.
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