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Ban From Olympics Turns Into Net Loss : Tennis: South African players hadn't been hurt by most world sanctions until IOC ruling.

SOUTH AFRICA Athletes in Exile; Fifth in a series; Friday: What lies ahead for South African sports.

May 10, 1990|JULIE CART | TIMES STAFF WRITER

"We must get them to tournaments; the way to improve at tennis is you must have competition," Moore said. "If you don't have competition, you will stagnate. A good example of that is Russia. In 1974, Russia decided they would no longer send their players on the international tennis tour because of South Africa's participation in international tennis events.

"They stopped sending players. They continued to play (in the Soviet Union). They had money, they had facilities, they had trainers. And they produced nobody. They played in the Davis Cup only and they routinely lost in the first round. It was self-imposed isolation for 10 years. Then they changed their minds around 1984-85 and they decided to get back into international tennis. From that time forward, they have produced players."

South African tennis officials speak about their sport as being non-racial.

By this, they mean that SATU-affiliated tournaments may not bar non-whites from playing, as they did in the past. Tennis officials say the sport is popular among blacks, yet the expense of equipment and facilities puts the game financially out of reach for most black South Africans.

Interestingly, South African tennis officials speak proudly of what the SATU has done to promote the sport among blacks. However, the gap between rhetoric and reality is vast.

Soweto, the sprawling black township west of Johannesburg, has a population of 2.5 million and a total of 16 tennis courts.

The Arthur Ashe Tennis Center is in the Shangoville section of Soweto. Construction began in 1978. Phase I is not finished.

In fact, today the courts are abandoned, the nets are long since blown away, and what remain of the fences around the courts hang and droop like shrugged shoulders.

A few children play near the courts but not on them. One boy sits high in a wooden umpire's chair, seeming to enjoy the view.

But in tennis terms, there's not much to see. Despite SATU officials' claims that they pour millions of rands into township tennis programs, there is little evidence of their expenditure. Johannesburg's largest townships, Soweto and Alexandra, have tennis courts, but all are in disrepair.

"They tell us that blacks cannot play tennis, that we do not know how," said Kapi Tkwana, who is on a youth sports committee in Alexandra. He waved a hand at a cracked and peeling court. "Not even Boris Becker could play tennis on that."

Moore's frustrations pour out. Politics, money, delicate negotiations and coping with sanctions take their toll.

He says the time has come to lift sanctions and reduce the pressure.

"It's like you have a naughty child," he said. "You have a naughty child and you spank him and you spank him and you spank him. Finally, there comes a time when you must stop spanking the child, otherwise you are going to end up with a monster. We are in that situation now. You guys have been spanking us and spanking us. When are you going to give us a little encouragement? We've done everything possible in tennis. We fly in the face of government opinion. We've come out publicly against apartheid. What more is there for us to do?"

Organizers of non-white tennis here say there's plenty to be done, beginning with providing facilities in the townships, not busing black children to tennis courts in white areas.

They also say all foreign tennis players should stay out of South Africa until apartheid is gone. The influx of professional players at tournaments in white areas only further segregates the sport, they say.

All sides agree on one thing: There is little that is fair about the current situation.

"South Africa violates human rights, let's accept that," Moore said. "I'm not proud of it. It's a fact of life. But if you go to Amnesty International, which I have done, and you'll see they have an A category and a B and a C category, and South Africa is not in the A category of the worst violators of human rights. But in the A category, you are going to find many, many countries that are respected members of the IOC and that play Davis Cup--Iran, Syria, Libya to start with. These are known terrorist countries. They blow airliners out of the sky.

"Iran is playing in Davis Cup this year. They will be in the Olympics. The U.S. will send an American Davis Cup team and an American Olympic team to play in those two competitions, and you still say, 'South Africa, pariah nation, no way, terrible country, you can't play with them.' How can you do that?"

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