The Egyptian domination, a feature of World Squash
The year began with the British Junior Open in England and then followed the Tournament of Champions in New York. A feature of these two prestigious squash events was the domination of Egyptian players. This is nothing new but a sample of the stranglehold Egypt has on world squash lately. There is a certain mystique about Egyptian squash. And that does not limit to just the country’s players domination but the way they grab the honours around the globe.
It is an indication of the huge base that this sport has in the country and kind of groundwork that has gone into churning out champion players on a regular basis. In short a study of Egyptian squash can be a delight, so to say.
A country on the north east of Africa and with a branch into Asia, Egypt is famous for its pyramids and in sports, football first and then squash. With government support particularly since the nineties during President Hosni Mubarak’s days the sport developed fast. People date its origin to the British colonial days when Egyptians played ball boys to the British soldiers. So began the squash life for young Egyptians. Much similar was the way it began in Pakistan too. Pakistan, of course, went on to dominate squash for some time, the era of Jehangir and Jansher is well known. But where squash in Pakistan tended to fade away in the face of a poor structural programme, Egypt took over the lead. Not that till then Egypt did not have its share of legendary players. Amr Bey, Mahmoud El Karim, Abou Taleb, Mo Abbas, Mo Asran Abbas Kaoud and Magdi Saad were some of the prominent players of the past. Besides, Dardir earned a special place as a coach.
Egypt thus had a squash culture. All that was needed was to nurture this and give a winsome touch to get the best of talents into the sport. From quantity as they say comes quality. Egyptian squash flourishes on this principle with thousands of players , concentrated mostly in Cairo and Alexandria and vast number of courts (read squash clubs) to prop up training programmes. Most among the thousands who play in these clubs mingle with new comers and inspire them with their experience and achievements. This is a phenomenon that is praiseworthy. World class players already stars in the sport never waste time once back home to spar with the up and coming squash players in the country. Can there be a better way to inspire young minds and put in big dreams into their heads?
Even more praiseworthy about the squash affairs in Egypt is the emphasis given to women players. Young girls had only to wait until Omneya Abdel Kawy became a junior world star. In recent times, a greater happening was the way Raneem El Welily rose to dislodge the long-standing world number one Nicol David to take the coveted place in the world. It is a different matter that Raneem is no longer the number one but her performance that way was never hit. The aura around her remains, ask Joshna Chinappa, who had the rare honour of beating her in the 2015 Qatar Classic. More than Raneem’s loss, Joshna’s win was the talking point in Doha.
Today any tournament of note in the world would attract not just one or two Egyptian players but a big group and it is a challenge for players of other countries to beat this battalion. A player’s level of play is judged by his or her show against an Egyptian. Nothing else can be a bigger compliment for the talent of this African country. Even in terms of quality and skills Egyptians have a special place with performances of players like Amr Shabana and Ramy Ashour often described as poetry in motion. Such is their flamboyance . More players of this quality are slowly but surely emerging from Egypt like world number one, Mohamed Shorbagy, Omar Mosaad, Tarek Momen, Kareem Abdel Gawad and host of others. The same holds true on the women’s side too with players like Raneem, Omneya, Nour El Sherbini, Nour El Tayeb and Nouran Gohar already making waves.
There are great players in England, France and even Australia among others but world squash will remain the domain of the Egyptians for some time to come. Nothing best can describe the Egyptian domination.