Tennis Without Spectators

Matches always draw spectators, often generate controversies and sometimes provoke protests. The Davis Cup match Sweden played against Israel last weekend in Malmö, a port town south of Sweden, was a match with a difference. It generated lot of controversy, provoked a 10,000-strong demonstration but had no spectators at all. Baltiska Hallen, the 4000-seat arena was utterly empty during the weekend-long show. The spectators were banned weeks ahead of the match by the local authorities. The official pretext was: ” We have made a judgement that this is a high-risk match for our staff, for players and for officials”.

But it was the mass mobilisation , wide-spread popularity and successful campaigning by a grass-root “Stop the Match” campaign, launched last December, that forced the local authorities to exclude the public frrom the arena.

”Stop the Match” was a broad coalition of political parties, cultural groups and organisations that has been advocating since the beginning of the Gaza massacre for international campaign for boycott, divestment and sanctions against Israel.

Malmö, Sweden’s third largest city, is ruled by a left-of-centre coalition. It has a large immigrant population. The Malmö city government was strongly criticised by the International Tennis Federation (ITF) and by Israel for its decision to close the stadium to the public.

The ITF and Israel were given a helping hand by mainstream Swedish media. The op-ed crusaders were angry at politicising the sport. The talk-show hosts wanted the left ‘extremists’ to leave the sport arenas alone. Sports ethics were invoked. The Malmö city government was grilled for capitulating before ‘extremists’. Nothing worked. Ironically, the same media would not leave the arenas alone ahead of Beijing Olympics. All major media houses dispatched their reporters to China. The TV screen and newspaper pages were flooded with dispatches from China regarding human rights violations. The op-ed contributors and TV anchors debated boycotting Beijing Olympics.

Similarly, ”Stop the Match” campaign was no novelty either here in Sweden. A Davis Cup match was played in an empty arena even in the past . In 1975, two years after a military coup led by Augusto Pinochet against the elected Chilean government of Salvador Allende, Sweden played Chile in Båstad and no spectators were allowed. While the match went ahead, several thousand demonstrators gathered peacefully outside the stadium.

Likewise, in 1968 Sweden in a Davis Cup match was supposed to meet Rhodesia. At the time, Rhodesia was criticised for enforcing apartheid. The demonstrators from around Sweden descended on Båstad in southern Sweden to protest the match. The demonstrators were roughed up by the police. The match in Sweden was cancelled and was eventually played in France.

Ahead of the Israel-Sweden Davis Cup matches last weekend, the mainstream Swedish media were forecasting trouble and scuffles. Up to 1000 police were mobilised while both the match and the march were marshalled by police and escorted by helicopters.

While activists carrying banners saying “Turn left, smash right,” and “Boycott Israel” joined the march, about 200 black-clad militants began pelting police with stones, lodged fireworks and fired paint bombs even when organisers of the official demonstration kept shouting at the masked protesters not to use violence against the authorities.

The media seized upon the opportunity. The march was simply missing in the videos run by electronic media on Saturday evening and images flashed by newspapers on Sunday morning. Instead, images of stone-casting youth were telecast/published with a sensation.

Though this might have offered the mainstream media some consolation yet the success of the march demonstrates that ”Stop the Match” campaign managed to raise the critical issues like daily situation of millions of Palestinians and the inappropriateness of welcoming representatives of Israel to a city where many inhabitants have lost friends and relatives in Gaza.

FAROOQ SULEHRIA lives in Sweden and can be reached at mfsulehria@hotmail.com


More articles by:
July 02, 2020
Stan Cox
It’s Not Just Meat: All Farm and Food Workers Are in Peril
Marshall Auerback
We Won’t Have a Truly Global Economy Until People Start Taxing It That Way
John O'Kane
Progressive Pulses Among the Ruins of Riot
John Feffer
Time to Rethink the US-ROK Alliance
Binoy Kampmark
The Kafkaesque Imperium: Julian Assange and the Second Superseding Indictment
Kim C. Domenico
Disbelief, Belief and the Perils of Pandemic Re-opening
George Ochenski
Trump’s Contagion Road Show Heads West
Haydar Khan
The Great Wall of Wokeness
Jeremy Kuzmarov
Biden Compared Indicted War Criminal to “George Washington”
Howard Lisnoff
Try to Get Published; Try to Be Heard
Rebecca Gordon
Fear of Falling: Can Making Black Lives Matter Rescue a Failing State?
Gary Leupp
Traditional Russophobia in an Unusual Election Year
John Kendall Hawkins
Biopic? Shirley, You Jest
Gary Macfarlane – Mike Garrity
Conservation Groups Sue Trump Administration to Halt Massive Logging in Steelhead Critical Habitat
Quincy Saul
Who Made the Plague?
July 01, 2020
Melvin Goodman
De-Militarizing the United States
Kenneth Surin
UK’s Labour Leader Sacks the Most Left-Wing Member of His Shadow Cabinet
Ruth Fowler
Then as Farce: the Commodification of Black Lives Matter
Kent Paterson
Crisis After Crisis on the Border
Rick Baum
The Pandemic and Wealth Inequality
Michael Welton
“Into the World of Bad Spirits”: Slavery and Plantation Culture
James W. Carden
The Return of the Anti-Antiwar Left
Dan Wakefield
Charles Webb Enters Heaven
Julian Vigo
A Call for Radical Humanism: the Left Needs to Return to Class Analyses of Power
Binoy Kampmark
A Trendy Rage: Boycotting Facebook and the Stop Hate for Profit Campaign
Michael D. Knox – Linda Pentz Gunter
As Monuments to War Generals Come Down, Let’s Replace Them with Monuments to Peace
Cesar Chelala
Attorney General William Barr’s Insomnia
Raphael Tsavkko Garcia
Is Bolsonaro Plotting a Self-Coup?
Mandy Smithberger
COVID-19 Means Good Times for the Pentagon
Joe Emersberger
On Pablo Celi, Ecuador’s super shady “Auditor General”
June 30, 2020
James Bovard
Bill Clinton’s Serbian War Atrocities Exposed in New Indictment
Bianca Sierra Wolff – Lisa Knox
ICE is Leaving Immigrants to Die in Detention, and Retaliating When They Speak Out
Don Fitz
Should NYC’s Wall Street Be Renamed “Eric Garner St.?”
Chris Hedges
My Student Comes Home
Richard C. Gross
Obamacare Vulnerable
John Feffer
The Hatchet Man’s Tale: Why Bolton Matters
Thomas Knapp
Afghanistan Bounties: Pot, Meet Kettle (and Turn Off the Stove!)
Charles Reitz
Anti-Racist Engagement in the Kansas Free State Struggle, 1854-64: Horace Greeley, German 48-ers, and the Civil War Journalism of Karl Marx, 1861-62
Howard Lisnoff
A Student Murdered in Cold Blood and a Kids’ Bike Ride Through Queens, New York
David Swanson
Hey Congress, Move the Money
Aparna Karthikeyan
Memories of Pox, Plague, and Pandemics in Tamil Nadu
John Kendall Hawkins
Democracy Chasers in a Badly Injured Nation
Binoy Kampmark
Wasteful, Secret and Vicious: the Absurd Prosecution of Witness K and Bernard Collaery
Norman Solomon
Ro Khanna and Barbara Lee Could Defy “the Madness of Militarism” as Co-Chairs of the Democratic Convention’s Biggest Delegation
Jon Hochschartner
Imagining a Vegan Superman