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Articles > Israeli Davis Cup Team Faces Sweden in Empty Arena

March 4, 2009 – Superman had his Fortress of Solitude. The Israeli Davis Cup team may have their own version in frigid Sweden when they meet the Swedes this weekend in the southern Swedish town of Malmo which is hosting the matches.

In recent weeks, the local organizing committee decided to close the matches off from the public because of crowds expected to demonstrate against Israel’s recent incursion into Gaza. 1,000 police from the surrounding area are being mobilized to insure order. One organization, "Stop the Match," is expected to draw between 8,000 and 12,000 demonstrators. Another group, made up of Palestinians and pro-Palestinians from Malmo and nearby Copenhagen will also be protesting. A third group, the "Autonomous Movement," is said to be planning to use violent means in their attempt to disrupt the competition.

“It’s a shame that we aren’t playing in front of a crowd,” said Israeli doubles player Andy Ram at the press conference held on Tuesday in. “It hurts the sport.”

“We are here to bring the best tennis of which we are capable,” said team captain Eyal Ran, “and the fact that there won’t be a crowd will not deter us from our mission to win.”

“We have a security detail that probably the Prime Minister himself wouldn’t have,” commented Dudi Sela of the security personnel who are with them on a constant basis. “Of course Andy Ram is used to this,” he joked, referring to the two body guards who were with Ram during his entire time in Dubai for last week’s Dubai Tennis Championships.

“Davis Cup is all about the crowd and the atmosphere, so it’s a little disappointing,” Sela told reporters one week earlier in Delray Beach, FL.

“The security detail is always nearby and it’s kind of like being in a bubble, but I am just trying to keep our team removed from whatever might be going on outside,” noted team captain Ran. “The Swedes have been quite hospitable, going to all lengths to return the favor for the way they were treated last year in Israel,” he added.

According to a report on the Israel Tennis Association website, journalists revealed to the Israelis that the decision to close the stadium from fans stems from political considerations, the local police having indicated that they would not have any particular problems to insure complete security and maintain order if play were open to the public.

On Tuesday night, the delegation met with members of the Malmo Jewish community, and it seems that some of them have plans nevertheless to make it into the arena during the matches, and promised to show up with Israeli flags.

The Center for Sport and Jewish Life wishes the Israeli team b’hatzlacha! along with a hearty Mazel Tov to Eyal Ran on the birth of his first child over the weekend during his visit to the U.S.

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