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“The world reacted for Ukraine, but very little for Palestine; that’s racism”- interview with Mayar Sherif

Mayar Sherif
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SANTIAGO, Chile – Being the second best tennis player in the Arab world brings with it a responsibility that Mayar Sherif takes it with pleasure. The Egyptian embraces that pressure both on and off the court, and doesn’t keep quiet about issues such as the war in the Middle East between Israel and the terrorist group Hamas.

“We’ve seen the world take action with the war in Ukraine…and this is ten times worse. The humanitarian aid that is coming into Gaza is very little. What is the difference between the people of Ukraine and the people of Gaza? I tell you: the color of the eyes, the color of the hair and that some are Muslims and the others are from Europe. That is nothing but racism,” Sherif said in an interview with CLAY.

Her friend Ons Jabeur brought the subject up in on-court interviews at the WTA Finals and burst into tears. Mayar Sherif thinks she should talk to her Tunisian colleague about it, and join forces in search of some help that in tennis has not been generated as it was for the Ukrainian people.

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“The WTA has raised funds and donated money to Ukrainians. You go to the locker room and you find pins of Ukraine… let’s see how the WTA is going to react now to this, where the WTA is going to stand for. Because now there are countries that don’t allow you to have Palestinian flags and don’t allow you to stand by Palestine. There are football players who have been suspended from their team just for speaking out in defense of Palestine. They say democracy, they talk about freedom of speech in the most modern countries in the world, but now this is not allowed?”, expressed the 27-year-old tennis player.

Interview with Mayar Sherif

– How do you carry the responsibility of being an athlete of reference for the Arab world?

– I like the pressure I have. The younger generation in Egypt is always looking up to me, I like that because it always helps me to push more and do more things, to be more active. For them to see that there is no limit, that they can go wherever they want and that you have to dream. There is already an example that is already there at the best level in the world.

– What is it like when you go to Egypt, is it crazy?

– If I go to a tennis club, yes. But still tennis in Egypt is not so famous, and it is a step that I want to exploit more, to make the sport grow in my country and in my region.

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When will you play doubles with Ons Jabeur?

– Well, if she lets me (laughs)… the thing is that she doesn’t play too much doubles. We are very good friends, she has a very good team, they are very good friends with my coach. We always see each other on the court or in the locker room. Not so much outside.

She raised her voice about the war in the Middle East during the WTA Finals. She said, “It’s not a political message, it’s about humanity; seeing children dying is very hard. I can’t be happy about a tennis match with everything that’s going on.” How do you feel about it?

– What is happening in the world is not normal. It is very sad what is happening in Gaza. There is no excuse, none, for what Israel is doing to the people of Palestine. There is no excuse either for the oppression, the illegal occupation, all the aggression… this did not start in October, this has been going on since 1948. This happens a lot and everybody has closed their eyes because politically Israel is very strong. This cannot keep happening. It is a shame to see that politics is more important than people’s lives, than the suffering of so many people, so many human lives at stake. It is so sad to see that power and greed are more important than humanity, people, hearts.

– You have been one of the few elite tennis players who have spoken out about this. On one of those times you shared on your Twitter account a poster with the message “stop the siege in Gaza now”.

– Yes, of course. It’s sad to see hospitals being demolished, premature babies dying, snipers killing children in the streets. Who has a heart to do that? What’s the excuse? There just isn’t one.

Mayar Sherif playing in Chile during the WTA 125, where this interview took place // @revesfotografico
Mayar Sherif playing in Chile during the WTA 125, where this interview took place // @revesfotografico

– Do you have friends in Palestine?

– No, I have no friends living there. In Egypt it is also a small community. Gaza is an open-air prison, which is very sad, considering also that the Palestinians have the right to have their state.

– Do you feel that the international community has lacked action on the conflict?

– Now people have started to pay more attention to what is happening. The people who have supported this aggression and this nonsense fire are now hiding, people are looking for them. We have seen that the French president (Emmanuel Macron) changed his mind and came out to say the opposite, because it is not possible not to condemn the atrocities that are happening. You really have to be racist…

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– Because of the difference with the Ukrainian case, you say.

–  Yes, that’s racist. Of course it is. We’ve seen the world take action with the war in Ukraine… and this is ten times worse. The humanitarian aid that is coming into Gaza is very little. What is the difference between the people of Ukraine and the people of Gaza? I tell you: the color of the eyes, the color of the hair and that some are Muslims and the others are from Europe.

– In tennis we have seen many actions taken after the Russian invasion.

– Obviously the WTA has not taken the same position, because politically the world has not acted the same when this happened with the Ukrainians as when it happened with the Palestinians. The WTA has raised funds and donated money to the Ukrainians. You go to the locker room and you find Ukrainian pins… let’s see how the WTA is going to react now to this, where the WTA is going to stand. Because now there are countries that don’t allow you to have Palestinian flags and don’t allow you to stand by Palestine. There are soccer players who have been suspended from their team just for speaking out in defense of Palestine. They say democracy, they talk about freedom of speech in the most modern countries in the world, but now this is not allowed? We are seeing what is the position of the real world.

Mayar Sherif after the interview with CLAY // SEBASTIAN VARELA

– Why is important to speak about this issue on the tour?

– Not only in tennis, is important everyone speaks out. A lot of people don’t know the background, a lot of people think this started on October 7th. The media has been changing. It’s just unbelievable like how they have the power to control Instagram, Facebook, to control the media of the world, the Western media, the US media. People is not blind anymore and they are looking about the history, about what’s been happening for years.

– Have you spoken about this among other tennis…

– Players? No. Because some people don’t even understand what’s happening. I don’t like to get into politics. If someone ask me, obviously yes, I would talk. But people know where I stand. I make it very obvious.

– Have you thought about doing something with Jabeur about it?

– Maybe. Maybe I should get in contact with her about this. I don’t know what’s the way to help them, but maybe.


If you enjoyed this interview with Mayar Sherif, don’t miss this link to our site, where you can find many other interviews with the great protagonists of the tennis tour.

COVER PHOTO: Luis Sevilla / @revesfotografico

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