The coach of Israel’s wheelchair tennis team has labelled today as “a sad day for sport” after their Moroccan opponents refused to play them in a match at the World Team Cup wheelchair tennis event in Tokyo.
Reports suggest the local Moroccan Paralympic committee ordered their players not to turn up for the match, which left Nimrod Bichler to say: “This is a sad day for sports, and an even sadder day for Paralympic sports. Politics have mixed with sports in the past, but Paralympic sports were always different.”
Boaz Kramer, CEO of the Israel Sport Center for the Disabled, said: “As we all know, sport can be the greatest tool in the world for bridging between people, conveying a message of brotherhood and sportsmanship.
“It is even more so with wheelchair sports, where we all share a fate, a challenge and a mission, to overcome our disabilities and excel. “I’m appalled by the abuse of these noble ideas, and feel sorry for Team Morocco, who was ordered by their sports association to not play against team Israel, today at the wheelchair tennis World Cup in Tokyo, Japan. I hope this will be severely and disproportionately punished.
“Wheelchair tennis was contaminated today by politics, and we, players and teams, should make a clear stand and make sure it stays ONLY about the amazing virtues of wheelchair sports.”
The tournament is the wheelchair tennis equivalent of the Davis Cup and Fed Cup, with categories for men, women, quads and a junior event. Featuring 51 teams from 29 different countries, Israel beat Hungary and lost to Malaysia in Pool D, meaning they finished second in the group, reaching the 5-8th position play-offs, which was when they were due to face the Moroccans. Awarded a default 3-0 victory, they will now take on Poland for fifth place on Friday.