With Gaza casting its shadows at the far distance, Sweden has banned fans from a Davis Cup tie, fearing protests over the deadly Israeli war in the densely-populated strip.
"We do not agree with the decision by the Malmo authorities to exclude the public," Francesco Ricci Bitti, president of the International Tennis Federation (ITF), told the Guardian on Saturday, February 28.
"And even at this late date, maintain our request that the decision not to allow spectators be reconsidered."
Local authorities in Malmo, Sweden’s third largest city, has banned spectators from attending the March 6-8 Davis Cup tie, which usually draws 4,000 enthusiastic spectators.
The decision was taken after unsuccessful attempts by Swedish tennis authorities and Davis Cup organizers to switch the match to Stockholm.
Local authorities in Malmo, which has a large Muslim community, fear anti-Israel protests during the game over last month’s deadly Israeli offensive in Gaza.
The Davis Cup, the most-viewed tennis competition, with a history of 108 years, is the largest annual international team competition in world sport.
The fans ban would be the second time in more than 100 years of Davis cup competition.
This is not the first time Gaza casts its shadow on sports activities.
Earlier this month, Israeli tennis player Shahar Peer was barred from entering the United Arab Emirates to play in the women’s tournament.
Organizers cited security concerns for the decision because of the angry public, which prompted a $300,000 fine.
Israel killed more than 1,350 people, mostly civilians, in 22 days of air, land and sea attacks in Gaza.
The offensive also left a trail of destruction in the sealed-off coastal enclave, home to 1.6 million people.
According to the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics, 4,100 homes have been totally destroyed and 17,000 damaged in the Israeli onslaught.
About 1,500 factories and workshops, 30 mosques, 31 government buildings and 10 water or sewage pipes were also damaged.
(IslamOnline.net and Agencies)