World table tennis body warns Malaysia of backlash if Israel barred

Sports Commissioner Datuk Zaiton Othman has told TTAM 'conditions' must be met if Israel were to participate. — Malay Mail pic
Sports Commissioner Datuk Zaiton Othman has told TTAM 'conditions' must be met if Israel were to participate. — Malay Mail pic

KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 5 — Malaysia is at risk of being banned from organising any world table tennis events if the Israeli team are barred from participating at the Perfect World Team Table Tennis Championships at Stadium Malawati, Shah Alam, next month.

The International Table Tennis Federation (ITTF), in an email to Mailsport, said the Jewish state have qualified on merit and will compete in the tournament as one of the world's top 96 teams.

“All ITTF national association members are allowed to enter the World Championships provided their ranking places them in the top 96 men’s teams and 96 women’s team in the world,” ITTF chief executive officer Judit Farago said in the email.

“This includes Israel, who have entered the event.” Malaysia, however, does not have any diplomatic ties with Israel. Jerusalem Post, had on Sunday, reported their athletes have not received visas from the Malaysian government to compete in Shah Alam.

ITTF informed Table Tennis Association of Malaysia (TTAM) that if Israel were not allowed to compete, the championships will be cancelled. “All costs incurred at the date of the cancellation will be borne by the host nation, including flight and hotel bookings.

“They (Malaysia) will never be allocated another world championships or any other world title event,” Farago added.

The world body stressed TTAM were well aware of the Israeli team participating in the championship.

“The host association, in this case Malaysia TTA, are aware of all entries received.”

TTAM, however, said they were not informed of Israel’s participation in the tournament scheduled for Feb 28 to March 6.

“As far as the championship is concerned, we’re on track. There was no discussion about Israeli athletes during our meeting,” said TTAM secretary Chan Foong Keong after the organising committee met yesterday.

“We’re just an affiliate of ITTF. We don’t have the power to decide if Israel join the tournament or not.

“We’re waiting for ITTF confirmation (of the athletes list). We hope to get something firm from ITTF regarding this.”

Chan said the event was approved and supported by the Sports Ministry.

“They gave us a letter of support. Without the government’s consent, we’ll not be able to host the event.”

Sports Commissioner Datuk Zaiton Othman said her office supported the event but told TTAM “conditions” must be met if Israel were to participate.

A Foreign Ministry spokesperson said: “Malaysia is clear on its foreign policies. We don’t have diplomatic relations with Israel.”

Windsurfers Yoav Omer and Noy Drihan withdrew from the recently concluded World Youth Sailing Championships in Langkawi because they were denied visas to compete.

The Israelis were also told they would not be able to fly their flag and the national anthem would not be played if they won.

Sports Minister Khairy Jamaluddin then called it a diplomatic issue, saying: “We’re guided by the existing policy of the government.”

World Sailing, the international governing body for the sport, in a statement on Dec 27 said they would “investigate this issue” and “are seeking clarification from the Malaysian organising authority.”  

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