Sat, Feb 21, 2009 - Page 20 News List

Israeli tennis player given visa for Dubai tournament

AP , DUBAI

Israeli Andy Ram has been granted a visa and allowed to compete in a Dubai tennis tournament next week after the United Arab Emirates (UAE) said on Thursday it would permit the seventh-ranked doubles player to enter the country.

The UAE came under sharp criticism after it banned Israeli women’s tennis player Shahar Peer earlier this week from entering the country to participate in the lucrative Dubai Tennis Championships. Organizers said they feared fan anger over Israel’s recent military offensive in the Gaza Strip would spill into riots in the Persian Gulf country if Peer were to play.

Tennis governing officials warned that holding future tennis events in Dubai could be in doubt if the Emirates — which does not have diplomatic relations with Israel — continued to ban Israelis.

“No player, who qualifies to play an ATP World Tour event, should be denied their right to compete on the basis of ethnicity, nationality or religion and we are happy that the Dubai Tennis Championships and the UAE have shown that they share that view,” ATP president Adam Helfant said in a statement.

Ram said he was pleased with the UAE’s decision — and said his focus was now on tennis.

“As a professional tennis player I thrive on competing at the world’s best events and the next week will be no different,” Ram said in a statement issued by the Dubai tournament.

Peer described the UAE’s decision to allow Ram to play as a “great victory” and said while it was unfortunate that she could not participate this week, she looked forward to competing in Dubai next year.

“I hope and believe that from this day forward, athletes from all over the world will be able to compete in the UAE and anywhere else in the world without discrimination of any kind,” Peer said in a statement.

Top past and present tennis players had spoken out against the Emirates’ ban on Peer — including Billie Jean King and Venus and Serena Williams — saying sports and politics should not mix.

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