MORE INTERNATIONAL EVERY DAY
One of the most enjoyable aspects of a world teams
tournament is the growing internationalism. Milan had 31 different
countries and the mix of nationalities within each country can be staggering.
Malaysia has Pakistani and Australian coaches and a French Canadian physiotherapist.
And Mohammed Azlan Iskander’s father is Scottish.
One of the more telling incidents
happened during the individual tournament when David Barnett of England
was told to change out of his t-shirt, which is not allowed in world events.
But Barnett, not a member of the England team, did not have a collared
shirt to his name, so Alistair Livingstone, the Scottish number one, who
was standing nearby dashed to his squash bag and gave him one. When Barnett
appeared on court, he had ‘South Africa’ written across his back.
At almost every world junior champs there are rumours concerning the age
of one or two Pakistan players. In Princeton one player was said to be
22, rather than under 19. It seems the issuing of birth certificates in
Pakistan is not as well controlled as in other parts of the world. Raju
Chainini, squash correspondent of The Hindu and other Indian papers, swears
that at one Asian junior championships all four Pakistani players had
birth certificates showing the date of birth as January 1 1973. Waaaall,
I suppose it could happenÂ
At the opening ceremony for the team championships
in Milan on July 22 2000, that likeable Aussie Chris Robertson, now
the Welsh coach, was given his award for winning the world junior championship.
Just a little lateÂ
..he won it in 1984.
A LITTLE DRAWING, GREAT THINGS
Had breakfast with the Egyptian national coach Abbas Kaoud at the Hotel
dei Cavalieri in Milan, the official hotel of the World men’s junior champs,
and conversation got around to the Al Ahram tournament. He says it all
started when he was looking through the very glossy Italian magazine Squash
International six years ago and there was an article saying that squash
could go ‘fresh air’ by erecting courts out of doors.
One of the sketches that accompanied
the article showed a squash court in front of the Pyramids. Abbas said
to the people in Cairo “Why not” and from that moment on they all pushed
towards making that random artist’s sketch a reality and producing one
of the greatest squash tournaments in the world in the most breathtaking
venue. The first Al Ahram was in 1996 and I was there. Photographs of
the shimmering court in front of the floodlit Pyramids hit newspapers
around the world. It
happens again in August. I shall be there.
New Yorkers will soon have a famous squash name at their service – Devoy.
Not Dame Susan Devoy, but her big brother Mark. (She had seven older brothers).
Round about the middle of August Mark will arrive with wife and kids to
take up the job of squash pro at the Casino Heights club, taking over
from Bryan Patterson, who leaves to take up a post at a Philadelphia school.
Mark was managing the New Zealand team in Milan and was very excited at
the prospect of moving to the States. Mark got the job over Liz Irving
– to the surprise of some. Gogo Allaudin was another applicant. A big
surprise was that world champion Peter Nicol’s long time coach Neil Harvey
applied for the job, but withdrew his name after a visit to the club and
the many duties were described to him.
DANCE DESERVES ANOTHER
The US team that finished a creditable 17th, were warned that the The
Kiwis would perform their famous haka Maori war dance before the match.
I suggested that the Americans reply with a wild charleston, but, for
some reason, it fell on deaf ears.
Two years ago at Princeton at the World Junior Champs, the Mark Talbott
Fair Play Award was inaugurated. It went to Nicholas Kyme of Bermuda who
was in Milan as the manager of the team, replacing his mother who has
retired from that job. A worthy winner he was too. In Milan, the award
went to James Willstrop and I can tell you it was wildly applauded by
all the other players at the closing ceremony. This 16 year old kid is
really something else. His on-court behaviour is as good as his on-court
performance. He never asks for a let on the chance that the ref is stupid
or asleep. He knows when he could not have reached the ball and he knows
when his opponent deserves a stroke. He never argues with the ref and
treats his opponents with respect bordering on affection. This was the
best behaved tournament I have ever seen and the two best players, Willstrop
and Karim Darwish, led the rest.
If you ever get to Milan, go to number two, Piazza Cavour, and look for
the sign Downtown Palestre. (That’s gym in Italian). It is 3000 square
metres of superb design and wonderful facilities. A huge spinning room,
every possible fitness machine, acres of changing rooms, private facilities
for people who don’t want to be seen to be sweating, steam baths, saunas,
four very good, meticulously clean squash courts and a terrific restaurant.
It was here that shrewd England team manager David Campion (husband of
world champion Cassie Campion) brought the England team every day away
from the hurly burly of the Vico squash club where all the other 30 countries
were given 30 minutes practise time every day. The Downtown manager is
a highly enthusiastic Argentian called Carlos Saikali and he welcomed
the presence of the England team and gave them a great deal on food too.
He extended those privileges to me and for about $11 we played, sweated,
showered and ate as much as we could. Downtown Palestre: firstname.lastname@example.org
My final note on Milan: the most beautifully turned out women of any city.
Even better than those New York women. Strangely I never saw a fat woman
under 50. And the Milanese women are liberated in a way that few others
are; they drive motor scooters, big and small, a matter of course. If
only I were 60 againÂ