Israeli tennis star Andy Ram has explained his reasons for deciding to go ahead and play in the Dubai Open after being labelled unpatriotic by Prime Minister Ehud Olmert.
Mr Ram was given a visa to play in the UAE only after a high-profile controversy the previous week over the exclusion of his compatriot, Shahar Pe’er, from the women’s tournament.
Ha’aretz quoted the Prime Minister as saying: “It would be highly worthwhile for someone to advise him to demonstrate patriotism and solidarity, and boycott the tournament.”
But Mr Ram, 28, wrote a column on Wednesday in Yediot Achronot, explaining his reasons for competing. He said: “It’s important for me to say first that I’m a sportsperson. I know there is criticism but I can’t come back as I’m out here [in Dubai]. It would be stupid if I wasn’t here after getting permission to play. I believe that after playing here it will open the doors for other Israeli players to compete here.”
Speaking about the tight security arrangements since his arrival, he said: “I feel like a prime minister because of all the security. But I feel ok.”
Unfortunately for Mr Ram, despite all the security precautions and the hype surrounding his participation, he and his Zimbabwean-born doubles partner, Kevin Ullyett, were knocked out in the first round 6-3, 3-6, 10-8 by Russia’s Marat Safin and Spain’s David Ferrer.