THE SCOOP THAT WENT
AROUND THE WORLD – AND CHANGED THINGSÂ
The effect of Sqashtalk’s exclusive
story on Carol Owens refusing to play for Australia had repercussions.
The story was copied and/or plagiarised and/or stolen by all other squash
media and since then it has even changed Squash Australia.
Part of Owens’ beef was that she never
heard from the governing body except when it was time to play in the world
teams championship. Now, it seems, any time any Australian wins anything,
they are bombarded with faxes of congratulations. One young Aussie was
heard to say that now they drive him crazy.
.BUT SOME PEOPLE NEVER LEARN
Anyway, after all that controversy and a frank exchange of views, Carol
Owens was surprised to get a communication from Squash Australia saying
that they intend to put out a Carol Owens poster, extolling the achievements
of this fine squash player. After describing how they were going to do
it they then said they actually did not have the money to finance the
project and could she get one of her sponsors to foot the bill?
While the smoke was still pouring
out of Carol’s ears, she read the last line of the missive. It asked her
if she would confirm her availability to represent Australia in next year’s
Commonwealth Games. I am very glad I wasn’t in the room when she read
that last line.
I have now heard it from two different sources: the Men’s World Open,
due later this year in Mumbai (formerly known as Bombay) will not take
place. No sponsors have been found and the India SRA do no get on well
with the promoters. (And that is putting it mildly). Furthermore, Pakistan
is threatening to boycott because of fundamentalist threats.
The PSA may now be regretting that
they took it away from the Melbourne Squash Festival in October.
Will the World Open now be going,
hat in hand, back to the Melbourne people and ask for forgiveness ? Or
even to The Eye Group to help them out? We await with interest the next
THE BARADA MYSTERY, Chapter two.
(see April Gallery for Chapter One)
I spoke to Sawy, who is not only the main man behind the Al Ahram tournaments,
but also Ahmed Barada’s Egyptian manager. Even he couldn’t tell me exactly
what is happening or what is likely to happen. He did say that he didn’t
know where Barada was and that the last time they spoke he was trying
to persuade Barada to attend the PSA Masters in Hurghada just to show
a presence at a major event, but Barada did not turn up.
Sawy also said that Barada was so
upset about his continuing back problem that he felt he would never get
better and would never play again – a genuine bout of depression. Sawy
confirmed that Barada had stopped playing and practising.
MISSION IMPOSSIBLE? OH NO IT AIN’T
We have all suffered the accursed burbling of cell phones at major sports
events (and let me tell you that those posh people at the centre court
at Wimbledon are no exception). The problem seems to be worse in Egypt
and on the semi-finals day after the players had stopped for the third
time because of the ringing of a cell phone breaking the silence, the
referee once more requested that all cell phones be switched off. As he
finished his announcement – beautiful timing this – another phone rang.
The tune? The theme from Mission Impossible. Best comic timing of the
year. A fitting tune considering the request.
But on Thursday, the presence of Suzanne
Mubarak, wife of the President of Egypt, demonstrated that this mission
was not impossible. Because, although in the Wild West, guns had to be
checked at the door, in the Wild Middle East, cell-phones and cameras
had to be checked at the door. Photographer Steven Line convinced the
swarm of security men that he needed his cameras to carry out his work.
But for the first time -and perhaps the last – since the invasion of cellphones,
we were able to sit through a match without hearing one single phone.
DON’T GIVE UP YOUR DAY JOB, BENG
On finals day, Sawy organised a large boat to take a bunch of players,
officials and journos to an island in the Red Sea. A 45 minute trip and
we still could not see Saudi Arabia on the other side. ( It is a big drop
of water: about 1300 miles from the Suez to the Gulf of Aden and 200 miles
at its widest.) A soccer match on the sand was soon in progress and I
can report that Ong
Beng Hee is truly a one-sport man.
They put him in goal and just as
the opposition were attacking, he turned to watch two very lovely women
walking by the sea’s edge. This put his back towards the pitch and suddenly
Beng Hee’s side were one down. After lunch they played volleyball. Wasn’t
much good at that either. He should worry, he got to the semi-finals of
the tournament and will soon be in the top ten. The rest of us went snorkelling
in five feet of water 10 yards from the shore and saw some incredible
fish among the coral. Strangely, the small fish came quite close, but
the larger fish kept their distance.
THE PAROCHIAL PRESS
Somebody on the USSRA Chat Line accused me of being European parochial,
saying I concentrated too much on European players. Out of 32 players
in the PSA draw, 10 were English, two Scottish, two Welsh, two Finnish,
one French, one Irish and one Belgian, making a total of 19 out of 32,
that’s about 60 per cent. So percentage wise, there was good reason to
give more courage to the Europeans than the others.
However, if you check the coverage
of Hurghada, you will find that there is no weighting in favor of European
players. I try to cover the players who make the news. In the early rounds,
there may be six matches going on at once. Which one do you watch? Sometimes,
when matches are on adjacent courts, you can watch two at once. Sometimes,
when deadlines demand, you are actually writing a story when a major match
is going on, so you cannot write about it in any detail, other than those
facts gleaned from one eye on court and from
other writers or observers.
And if there are women’s and men’s
matches going on at the same time, I like to give equal coverage. So those
are some of the problems of the squash writer. But this anonymous Chat-Line
writer (come out from behind your cover and write like a man, damn you!)
was mostly upset that I never wrote about Jonathon Power’s early matches.
In fact reading his (or her?) complaint, I came to the conclusion that
he wanted me to change from being European parochial to Toronto parochial.
I will go even further: what he really wants is a Power Fanzine. Sorry
mate, not here.
Barry Faguy, the Canadian referee who keeps me on the straight and narrow
path on rules and rude remarks about referees (who make decisions that
I don’t like), puts out a lively magazine called The Squash Official for
Squash Canada. In the April 2001 issue he reports that during the Quebec
Open, Shahier Razik crashes into the lanky Shawn DeLierre and still stunned,
turns to DeLierre’s mom sitting behind the back wall and asks: “What have
you been feeding him?” Without missing a beat Delierre orders: “Don’t