Shockingly, as many as 68 foreigners withdrew from the ITF Women’s Future event in Lucknow, scheduled from April 20 to 27, citing security reasons. It is reliably understood that they grew paranoid after hearing stories of mounting violence, especially towards women in the country.
In all, 80 players have abstained from it. Uttar Pradesh Tennis Association (UPTA) treasurer, J S Kaul, was stunned when he heard about the mass withdrawal, that too on the eve of the tournament.
“Of course, not all the players who register would turn up. But so many players withdrawing is unheard of. When we contacted them, they told us they are afraid of travelling to India. Even some of their relatives had requested them to remain in their country,” Kaul said.
Apart from Indians, players from Australia, Sweden, France, Thailand, Ukraine, Serbia, Russia, China, Japan, Britain, Germany have also withdrawn their names. Despite the authorities persuading them to participate in the event, they remained stubborn on their decision. “We assured them that there wouldn’t be any security issue in the country. There has been no instance of animosity against players, we guaranteed them. But they remained unconvinced,” he said.
The tournament would go on, but with a weaker field. “What else can we do? The tournament will go as scheduled. But it wouldn’t be a good advertisement for the game. And what if more players express their hesitation to visit India?,” he said.
This isn’t a stray incident, as 27 foreigners withdrew from the ITF Women’s Championships being held in Chennai. Hiten Joshi, Tamil Nadu Tennis Association CEO, reckoned this was normal.
“These things happen, as there are lot of tournaments around. They usually register for every event and then they would pick and choose. They would assess a lot of things before they decide on a tournament, items like travel expenditure, Date clashes with exams, etc. I don’t think security was ever an issue, at least in Chennai,” he said.