Article N°5: Palestina Sport Club, the golden age of tennis

Note: This is the article Nº5 about the historical research about Club Deportivo Palestino for the project ‘4 Colores’

Previously it was said that Club Deportivo Palestino, after having participated between 1921 and 1923 in the youth championship of the Football Association of Santiago, and having retired from competition for finding a hostile environment in Chilean society, chose for focusing their energies on playing tennis, because it is a less contact sport and more of a gentleman’s game. (1)

Indeed, during those years it was called ‘Palestina Sport Club’ or ‘Palestina Sporting Club’, on the style of tennis club names.

In 1924, the first tennis team, composed of Deik brothers (Elias and Salvador), the Yunis brothers (Fuad, Alfredo and Rosa Yunis), the Thumala brothers (Elias and Victoria Thumala) and Zaror brothers, with relative success in competitions between other tennis clubs.

A few years later, the team built their own sport complex. It was located on Avenue Centenario (present Avenue Einstein), corner of General Freire (current Albano street) in the middle district of Recoleta.

The most famous players that belonged to Palestina Sport Club, we can mention three: Elias Deik, Salvador Deik and Fuad Yunis.

In 1925, experienced Torrealva brothers, chilean tennis champions in doubles in 1918 and chilean early players in Davis Cup, already mentioned Elias Deik among the most promising players of Chile. (3)

Just when Elias Deik was having good results in August 1926, he almost left his tennis player career because a confusing fact. It was regarding their exclusion from the chilean team which would participate in the Mitre Cup in Buenos Aires, apparently by direct elimination system. Finally Fritz Bierwirth and Carlos Doren it classified (4). It was argued for drawing such a conclusion that Elias Deik ‘had a style that did not fit with the elegance that a player should have’. All this was based on a pretext: the lack of experience… but Elias was not discouraged and continued to fight against adversity. (5)

In August 1927, Palestina Sport Club won the ‘Carlos Orrego’ Cup. (6)

Already in 1928, Deik brothers begin to stand out in the classic Easter competitions in Valparaiso, especially Salvador, who reached the youth series final of the tournament (7). At the same year, Elias began to excel in college tournaments, participating by Universidad de Chile team, obtaining titles from 1929 to 1931.

In early 1929 it will be the year that Elias Deik will have a significant increasing in his skills, defeating veteran player Jose Dalgalarrando in the final of the 12th Tennis Championship of Papudo. (8)

The Chilean magazine ‘Match’, highlight his victory as a player who has a ‘perfect mastery of the game skill’ and as a fully promising player. (8)

Salvador Deik, who also played other tournaments by Universidad Católica, the chronicles describe that ‘His game is reliable, but once accurated, and all violent that allows your body; his forehand is fast and with a strange placement.’

They also describe an own ‘technical curiosity’ of players who have highly developed their forehand in detriment of his backhand: ‘When Salvador Deik receives a ball directed to the left corner of the field in favorable conditions, he quickly placed and returns the ball with a fast direct drive and mostly times his contenders have no returning chance to their contenders.'(9)

About Fuad Yunis, who usually played on college championships representing the University of Chile, is described as’ play is primarily varied and serene, and short or hit with equal skill. Its high point is the backhand’. (9)

At the end of the decade of the 20s, the brothers Deik leave the Palestina Sport Club for moving to International Sporting Club (2), located in Bellavista street, because they could have a better development of its skills and achieve greater competitive friction; while Fuad Yunis continued to represent Palestinian Sport Club, and while disputing university tournaments, usually playing doubles with Juan Uribe. (10)

Elias Deik was among the best Chilean players without much threatening rivals until 1940, being interrupted when his brother Salvador was finally able to beat him in the finals of Chile 1936, the last title win a Chilean until the next six years later. The match was played at night at the International Sporting Club of Bellavista and generated great expectations in the media and among the public that filled the nearly thousand seats that were arranged for the occasion. (11)

Also, Deik brothers played the Davis Cup in 1933 representing Chile, at that time they beat Uruguay 5-0 in Montevideo. A week later they traveled to Buenos Aires to play against Argentina, where they were defeated by a resounding 4-0. This would be the last Davis Cup played by Chile in many years, because the International Tennis Federation decided to end the zonal competitions and determined that South American countries were to go to Europe, a situation that the local federation was unable to finance. 16 years lasted this long absence from the national world’s leading tennis tournament team. (11)

Instead the Davis Cup, the Deik brothers visited regularly Uruguay and Argentina to measure forces with the best players on the continent, who also visited the national courts. The most important of these cups was the Mitre Cup tournaments, you could say more or less it was like a South American championship tennis. (11)

Among the local competitions, it was a classic trip going to Talca confronting the Palestinian Sport Club of Talca (later absorbed by the Deportivo Arabe and Centro Árabe in the same city). (13)

Other players who stood out winning in various competitions; we can enumerate Luis and Victor Yunis, school champions in 1934, also Fuad and Alfredo Yunis were colleges champions and at the end of 1933 were representatives of Universidad de Chile in a sports tour to Peru. (14)

In addition to these players, there were others who won first and second category championships of the 30s, such as Rosa and Victoria Thumala Yunis, Santiago Abugarade, José Yunis, Elias Thumala, Salvador Musalem, Constantino Humud, among others. (14)

Elias Deik’s legacy is undeniable in the Chilean courts, despite the problems of discrimination faced in its first stage, to be recognized by chilean society. He was said to be a player who had a very unconventional technique including his racket grip, nor had ease of moving, preventing him from playing near of the net with real effectiveness. But he knew perfectly all rivals and exploited to the maximum the weaknesses of each. Not only play, but also the temperament, so nervous players ended up exhausted mentally, for varying the speed of play, sometimes making it slower, and as his strength point was his perseverance, his adversaries were consumed with impatience (15). Also, the promising tennis player meteoric career in those years, Efrain “Viruta” Gonzalez, when asked about the best opponent he had had, he replied that Elias Deik, who “always would throw the ball anywhere, except to where I would be” (5)

In 1950, Elias Deik was elected president of the Club International of Bellavista, at the same time began to leave high-level tennis competitions (16), later he was incorporated as a leader in the process of professionalization of the football branch of Club Deportivo Palestino.

In the case of Salvador Deik, after 1936, it was recognised not as ‘the little brother of Elias Deik’, but someone who stood out in their own right, for having a fighting game, offering entertainment and never gave a lost ball, even when he was a veteran in his last years and having problems of overweight (17). On January 22, 1952, after being defeated by Luis Ayala, he announced the final withdrawal of competence (18).

In 1955, although both players had retired from active tennis, they continued to contribute to the Chilean tennis, organizing games for training young tennis players at that time (19).

Previously it was said that Elias and Salvador were great-uncles of Gonzalo Lama, current number one player in the Chilean courts, but there is another extraordinary fact which link them: Salvador Deik was one of the mentors of Jaime Fillol (outstanding Chilean tennis player of the 70s decade), and at the same time, Jaime Fillol was one of the trainers of Gonzalo Lama, who usually plays doubles in the circuit since 2015 together with Nicolas Jarry, grandson of the same Jaime Fillol. (20)


Tennis in Palestine

Sports in general were a reflection of the class and the situation in Palestine. While football and boxing, for example, were games for the masses, the tennis practice are basically limited to the British and Palestinians who served in the administration of the British Mandate of Palestine. The clubs ‘Circle Sportive’ of Jaffa and Gaza, and the YMCA in Jerusalem were the main places of tennis practice in Palestine. (21)

The only prominent player which its have known records in this discipline was Hazem Nusseibeh (22), tennis champion in Jerusalem, Beirut and Alexandria. He and his brother Mahmud won the doubles championship under 18 years in 1939, when they beat the Perez brothers representing the Jewish community in the YMCA central court in Jerusalem. Hazem was also the tennis champion of the American University of Beirut during the three years he spent at the University during 1941-1943. Before that, when Hazem was a student at the University of Victoria in Alexandria, he won the under 18 years series of international tennis championship, in the central courtyard beating second-placed Schmile. He was also on the football team of the University of Victoria, as well as equipment Ahli Arab in Jerusalem. His brother Hisham was also goalkeeper in that team (23).


Situation in Palestine (24)

Between January 27th and February 10th of 1919, the first Palestinian National Congress (PNC) was former and held in Jerusalem, where it sent memorandums to the Paris Peace Conference (celebrated at that time), rejecting the Balfour Declaration and demanding for the independence of Palestine. In March of that year, participants in the Conference decided to send an investigative commission to the area, which was known as King-Crane Commission. In August of that same year, the commission results were exhibited at the Paris Peace Conference, recommending that “The project to transform Palestine into a Jewish Commonwealth should be abandoned.”

In 1920, riots broke out in Palestine due to fears of Zionist expansionism in Palestine and the unfulfilled promises of independence (such as Hussein-McMahon Correspondence). These disturbances caused five deaths and wounded 200 jews. Britain appoints Palin Commission to investigate these facts, who recommended the dismissal of Musa Kazim Pasha al-Husseini, mayor of Jerusalem, for opposing the pro-Zionist policies. That same year, the Supreme Council of the of San Remo Conference, assigned a British mandate to Palestine, just like with the Balfour Declaration, without the consent of the local population. In December of that year, under the holding of the Third PNC, made in Haifa, an Executive Committee was elected, which will lead the political movement between 1920 and 1935.

Between May and June 1921, the Fourth PNC was held in Jerusalem, which decided to send a delegation to London for explaining the Palestinian position against the Balfour Declaration of 1917. In 1922, a second delegation was sent to London, where it announced the rejection of the same statement to the British colonial secretary Winston Churchill, and independence was demanded.

In October 1922, the first British census was made in Palestine. 78% Muslim, 11% Jewish and 9.6% of Christians in a total population of 757,182 inhabitants, the following results were obtained.

Among the approval of the British Mandate in Palestine, from April 1920 until September 1923, when it was concretized, the respective attitudes of the three actors in the Palestinian problem they were hardened and crystallized. The regulations of the Mandate made the Zionist-British agreement on the Balfour Declaration – it changed from an affair based in a mutual interest to being an internationally legitimized marriage, where Britain was committed to the policy of the Zionist movement in return for the cooperation and supporting Zionists in Palestine, whether in land acquisition and subsidizing Zionist workers and projects at the expense of Palestinian workers.

Between 1924 and 1928 the Palestinian political scene went through an exceptional period of stagnation and paralysis. Many factors explain this pause in the struggle against Zionism and the British government; the most important of them was the final approval of the Mandate by the League of Nations, and the slowdown of the implementation process of Zionist colonization in Palestine.

Another aspect of the political stalemate in this period was the inability of traditional leaders to articulate the demands of the Palestinians effectively led to criticism on “outdated methods and motivations interested old school.” The leaders of the old school, however, was determined not to lose power. Distinguished families of that time -the Husseini, the Khalidi, the Nashashibi and Dawudi- were pro-British, sent their children to be educated to english schools and did not want to antagonize Britain, therefore, the leadership between the 20s and 30 was not interested in supporting a revolutionary movement. While notable Arabs were willing to dialogue with their Jewish counterparts and government officials, villagers and ordinary people were angered by the resurgence of the Zionist threat.

In 1929, after the World Jewish Congress July, where it was agreed between Zionist and non-Zionist Jews a fundraiser to promote a Jewish national home in Palestine; and even more so with the British government to support Jewish immigration and colonization, the attitude of the most radical Palestinian was strengthened, who supported a violent opposition to the Mandate for preventing the Zionist hegemony in Palestine. So much so that at noon on August 23, 1929 there were riots with attacks including armed Palestinians with sticks, revolvers and some with Swords- against Jews. When they attacked, the British police opened fire, and shortly after the aircraft flew over Jerusalem. Around 4 pm the armored cars had arrived from Ramle and seventy had deployed special agents.

During the riots, 133 Jews were killed and 339 wounded, of whom 198 were hospitalized; meanwhile, 116 Arabs were killed, while another 232 were treated for injuries.

In March 1930, the Shaw Report, a British investigative commission, attributed the riots of 1929 that the Palestinians “have come to regard Jewish immigration not only as a threat to their immediate means of existence but as a potential domination for future”. Another report, published in October by Sir John Hope-Simpson says that there is no land available for new Zionist immigrants. The British government published a new White Paper taking note of these facts and recommended further to complaints from Palestinians attention. As expected, the Zionist leaders fiercely criticized the White Paper of 1930, fearful that a British fairer policy would oppose their goals.

The British government gave in to Zionist pressures and withdrew the White Paper in February 1931. It sent to Palestine to a new high commissioner, General Sir Arthur Wauchope, with the mission to speeding up the development of the Jewish National Home.

The withdrawal of the White Paper of 1930 convinced the Palestinians that their complaints would never be favorably received and the recommendations of experts based on field research, would always be offset by the zionist influence on the London headquarters.

On November 18, 1931, the second british census was conducted in Palestine, which reported a total population of 1,035,154 inhabitants, of which 73.4% were Muslims, Jews 16.9%, and 8.6% Christians.

In August 1932, the first Palestinian political party, called Istiqlal (Independence Party Arab) is formed.

In October 1933, the Arab Executive Committee called for a general strike to protest against British pro-Zionist policies, especially the sponsorship of mass immigration. Riots erupted in major cities.

In October 1935, the National Bloc Party is formed. Along with Istiqlal, these four parties (Party of Defense, Palestinian Arab Party, Reform Party and National Bloc Party) become the main Palestinian parties of the time. On the other hand, the Revisionist movement had separated from the WZO, then found the ‘Irgun Zvai Leumi “(National Military Organization) founded by dissident members of the Haganah (paramilitary organization of Jewish self-defense), being led by Vladimir Jabotinsky. This group had more pretentious aspirations to conquer by force to Palestine and Transjordan. In the same month, a lot of weapons smuggled from Belgium by Zionist groups, was discovered in the port of Jaffa.

In November 1935 there was the first guerrilla action. Several Palestinian guerrillas were killed on the hands of British security forces, including a preacher and reformer of Haifa called Sheikh Izz al-Din al-Qassam. The Palestinians saw them immediately in their national martyrs.

In December 1935, the British administration took an initiative to try to calm the Palestinian concerns. This last time operation was to form a local legislative council of twenty-eight members, of which fourteen would be Palestinian. The Palestinians then constituted 70.5% of the total population; however, they were desperate, so they accepted this proposal. But in March 1936, when the House of Commons considered the draft, the attacks of the pro-Zionist members to the Parliament were such that the british government had to withdraw. The pro-Zionist argued that such an institution would hinder the development of the Jewish National Home. Since then the Palestinians realized that trusting the English to play fair as far as they were concerned, was purely an illusion.

In short, from 1931 to 1936 sixty-four new colonies were founded, and the proportion of land belonging to Zionists went from 4.5% to 5.4% of the total area of the country. As the proportion of the Jewish population terms, it increased -due mainly by immigration- from 17.8 to 29.5%.

Because of these events, from this moment, the Palestinians begin to take more organized action directly against the British administration, and from this moment, the British administration begin to take much tougher measures against Palestinians.

Original post:



(1) “Citizens and Sportsmen: Fútbol and Politics in Twentieth-Century Chile, 1893-1973”, Brenda Elsey, 2011.

(2) “Clubes de tennis de la capital ‘Palestina Sport Club’ ”
Los Sport N°411, 1931-01-23, pág. 6

(3) “Charla con nuestros dos raquetas cumbre”
Los Sport N°145, 1925-12-18, pág. 12

(4) “Duplicando una réplica tardía. Alrededor de la supuesta decadencia del tennis en Chile”
Los Sports N°190, 1926-10-19, pág. 22

“Elias Deik nos narra su vida deportiva”
Los Sports N°289, 1928-09-21, pág. 16.

(5) “Elías Deik, el obstinado”
Estadio N°85, 1944-12-15, pág. 30.

(6) “En broma y en serio. Club Palestina se adjudica copa ‘Carlos Orrego’”
Los Sports N°233, 1927-08-26, pág. 17.

(7) “Las clásicas competencias de Semana Santa. La técnica de nuestros tenistas mejora”
Los Sports N°266, 1928-04-13, pág 6.

(8) “Una esperanza para nuestro Tennis”.
Match N°10, 1929-02-28, pág 10.

(9) “Las primeras ruedas del Campeonato de Tennis de la zona central en el Stade Francais”
Los Sports N°418, 1931-03-13, pág. 16 y 28.

(10) “Deporte del Domingo. Impresiones gráficas del tenis y atletismo santiaguino”
Los Sports N°392, 1930-09-12, pág. 18.

(11) “Historia del tenis en Chile, 1882-2006”.
Mario Cavalla, 2006, pág 56.

(12) ‘Representantes de Chile, los hermanos Elias y Salvador Deik’
La Reforma N°174-175, 28 de febrero de 1935-02-28, pág. 12.

(13) “Sociedades – Palestina Sport Club”
La Reforma N°2, 1931-01-10, pág 3.

“Los Torneos de Tennis entre Palestinos”.
La Reforma Núm Extra, 1932-05-20, pág 27.

(14) “Palestina Sport Club de Santiago”.
La Reforma Núm. Extra, 1935-01-01, pág 22.

(15) “La inteligencia en el deporte”
Estadio N°298, 1949-01-29, pág 24.

(16) “Enfoques del deporte”
Mundo Árabe N°151, 1950-05-29, pág. 4.

(17) “Noble, empeñoso, luchador”
Estadio N°437, 1951-10.29, pág. 7

(18) “El primer peldaño”
Estadio N°461, 1952-03-22, págs. 20, 21.

(19) “De tablón a tablón”
Estadio N°639, 1955-08-13, pág. 24.

(20) “La historia de más de 60 años que une a Lama y Jarry”
El Mercurio, 2014-12-15, pág 14.

(21) “Body and Ideology – Early Athletics in Palestine (1900 – 1948)”
Issam Khalidi, 2006, pág 6.

(22) Hazem Nusseibeh (born may 6th of 1922) is a jordan politician and diplomat of Palestinian origin. Since his career in the Jordanian government, it served as foreign affairs ministry, Jordanian ambassador in Egypt and permanent political representative in United Nations.

(23) Founded in 1927, the Arab Sports Club became in one of the best teams of the country. In 1946, it was fusionated with Al-Ahli Club to form the Ahli al-Arabi Club.

(24) Summary of historical events in Palestine, based in these texts:

– “Palestine, a Modern History. Zionist colonization, British imperialism and native resistance until 1939”
Abdel Wahab Kayyali, 1972.

– “Before their Diaspora. A Photographic History of The Palestinians 1876-1948”
Walid Khalidi, 1984.