THE ITALIAN SPLIT Well, here we are
in Brescia. Where dat? About an hour east of Milan where Amedeo Bianchetti,
publisher of the International Squash annual, is running the Mega Italia
Open. Amadeo has many strings to his squash bow apart from publisher.
He is father of Davide, the reigning Italian champion, and Andrea another
son, who is a ranked junior. And probably the only successful tournament
organiser in Italy. Not that FIGS, the Italian squash federation, would
admit that; after acrimony that has been going on for some years, there
has been a very large split in Italian squash. Sixteen of the top men
players and eight of the top women have torn up their FIGS membership
cards and, with the help of Amedeo, set up their own circuit. Indeed the
Italian team that played in the recent European team championships, consisted
of their number 20 player and two juniors. They were ranked eighth and
finished 12th having never won a match.
The present FIGS directorate is a disaster;
they screwed up the world men’s junior championship in Milan in 2000 so
badly, one world official said they would not be given another championship
for years. You may remember that my reports from Milan for Squashtalk
inflamed the president so much he spent months sending me insulting letters
– in two languages! (I found that being called the Italian equivalent
of a sunnavabitch in two languages quite flattering).
And when Andrew Shelley put in his official
report accusing them of profiteering on top of incompetence, the president
called him the sort of names you would normally reserve for Attila the
Hun, Hitler and Bin Laden.
Recently Amedeo Bianchetti showed that he could
run the Italian Open in professional style and offered to organise this
year’s European team championships. The European Squash Federation approved
the bid as long as the tournament director was Amedeo Bianchetti. FIGS
refused point blank. This is astonishing in view of the fact that they
had been awarded the 1998 European championships but had to withdraw because
their much promised new squash centre in Rimini never materialised and
that they have failed to deliver on most of the promises made to the ESF
and the WSF. Which is why the European championships this year were held
in Germany, where they always do a very good job. And which is why Italy
will not see another championship while the present FIGS directors are
in place. And which is why the Mega Italia Open is being run without a
trace of FIGS. At the very mention of FIGS (where he was once president)
Amedeo Bianchetti’s beard gets another grey hair.
FAGUY’S THIRD UMPIRE
Barry Faguy, that fine Canadian referee, puts out a small booklet four
times a year on reffing matters. The back page is a collection of referees’
tales from the tournament and the following made me laugh out loud. Ref
Suzanne Dufresne at a Quebec tournament, says No Let to player appealing
on an attempt to get to the ball. He then starts to complain vociferously,
and just then his wife, a spectator, pipes in with : “No Dear, – you couldn’t
have got it.” What are the odds that the player stopped arguing immediately?
And then calculate the odds that the player and wife are still married.
SUE WRIGHT, THEN ROSE, GETS IT RIGHT BY
RETURNING TO WRIGHT
While we are on marriage, why is it female squash players rush to change
their name as soon as they get married? Is it a sort of tacit boast that
they managed to catch a man? Why would you want to change your name after
so much work to get it well known in the sport? I can’t tell you how much
trouble this causes in the record books. When I was compiling the complete
results of the women’s British Open for Squashtalk’s archives it was almost
impossible to link the maiden to the wife. And in those days, Jane Smith,
when she got hitched, not only took on her husband’s surname, she took
on his initials. So Jane Smith disappeared and next year she appeared
as Mrs. D.A.M Fule. It was an impossible task, but by sheer luck, Sheila
Macintosh, who won the title in 1961, is a member of the Royal Tennis
Court at Hampton Court, where I am still trying to master the game of
real tennis (court tennis in the US, jeu de paume in France). So I sat
down with her and she unravelled all the marital connections and gave
me Christian names going back to 1931.
To get back to my starting point. Sue Wright,
who got to the final of the British Open in the early 90’s, changed her
name to Rose when she got married last year. She has now seen the light
and changed says that she will now be known professionally as Sue Wright
‘because everybody knew me as Sue Wright anyway and, no, I’m not getting
Cassie Jackman changed her name to Campion
on her marriage to David a couple of years back. Sadly, I hear they have
split, but she still bears his name. Leleini Joyce has made Joyce famous
as a name in squash: it was her first husband’s name. Without my record
books here in Italy, I can’t even remember her real name.
Linda Charman had the right attitude when she
got married last year. She just added her husband’s name to her’s; Linda
Charman-Smith. You’ll notice that his name comes after hers. Atta girl
Linda, show them a little ego is not a bad thing.
SUCH LANGUAGE, Tut, Tut, Tut.
I don’t know whether the following observations at the British Open are
of any use to anybody, but I felt it should be reported. When Anthony
‘Rocket’ Ricketts said ‘fuck’ after losing a point in his match against
Omar Elborolossy, he was immediately penalised a conduct stroke.
Linda Charman-Smith got exactly the same punishment
for saying ‘bollocks’. And when the lady referee heard ‘Jesus Christ’
issue from the mouth of Jonathon Power after one of her decisions, by
the time she admonished him with ‘Watch your language’ he had already
completed another two sentences ending with ‘crappy shot’. When he heard
the admonition Power was totally puzzled: ‘What language? Crappy?’ More
laughter in court. But is Jesus Christ a swear word, an oath or a prayer?
Are referees allowed to censor religion on court?
When it came to presenting the prizes in Manchester at the British Open,
there was no sign of the PSA’s chief executive, Gawain Briars. Maybe it
was because of Mike Corby’s public criticism of the PSA. Indeed, my Deep
Open Throat tells me that Mike Corby threatened to pull out if the PSA
franchise fee was paid. He was adamant that the British Open would go
ahead without the co-operation of the PSA. I look forward with unconcealed
excitement to next year’s British Open. Will it happen? Will they find
a sponsor ? Will Corby come to the rescue again? Will the PSA again recommend
to their player that they boycott the event? Will the PSA members ignore
the recommendation again and participate? And will Gawain Briars, if he
is still chief executive, again fail to appear on finals day? Dontcha
just love sport?
CAREFUL NOW, THERE’S A NEW BALL IN TOWN
Pointfore have introduced The Ball, a new squash ball, to give Dunlop
some competition and reduce prices. Richard Packham, Pointfore’s chief,
kindly sent me a couple to try out. They came in a brown envelope marked
‘Fragile’. You can be sure he heard about that immediately. He sheepishly
replied that his staff are overprotective when it comes to the British
mail system. So now when I play with The Ball, I hit it very gently and
give it a good massage after the game.
HOW THE KIWIS ARE GROWING THE SPORT I FIRST
Neven Barbour when he was playing number one for New Zealand at the world
championships in Ottawa thirty years ago. Barbour, together with Bruce
Brownlee and Howard Broun were a pretty strong team -they almost won it
too, beating Pakistan, but losing to Pakistan on countback. Since then
he has played a major role in squash in his country, rising to chairman
of Squash New Zealand as well as being the Oceana representative for the
World Squash Federation. He was in Manchester as manager of the New Zealand
team for the world doubles invitation tournament and took time out to
tell me why squash is on the up in New Zealand, with a brand new national
squash centre and some interesting programs.
“When I became chairman, we appointed a new
CEO and looked for ways to make the game grow. We could see the game slipping
away with an aging population. We realised that if we were to get new
young people to play the game we had to present the game in a modern format.
The market research told us that they didn’t like what we offered. We
saw our biggest need was facilities. We also found that what they wanted
was recreation and fun, so the competitive side is further down the list.
Our development officers concentrated on schools so that young people
were introduced at an early age rather than at the high end, at the competitive
WHERE DID THE MONEY COME FROM FOR THE NEW
“Squash New Zealand and Squash Auckland had some cash reserves and we
formed a charitable trust and went out and chased a couple of million
dollars. We got most of this from a government scheme that will fund new
facilities once the leaders prove that everything is correct. We completed
the building last year, at a university in Auckland, where we already
had a target market of 18,000 students. The land was free.
“If a national organisation can’t show investors
what a modern-day facility should look like, how can we expect the game
to grow? The basic plan was ten courts
with a cafÃ©, plus national headquarters and Auckland headquarters. We
have finished stage one with six courts with movable walls and the cafÃ©.
Stage two will be the accommodation for coaching and offices and another
four courts. The essential aim is to present squash and have a place where
young people can meet and have a cup of coffee and squash is played around
them on glass-back courts.
“Next door is a complete gym and fitness facility.
We think young people want variety: to have squash courts sitting alone
is not the idea – they should be part of a six or seven sport facility.
“The future of our sport depends on introducing it to a wider market,
broadening the base of the pyramid. We have a large Maori and Polynesian
base but hardly any of them play because the sport is not accessible to
them. We have to modernise our methods. You wouldn’t try to sell a 35
year old car to a modern consumer. Well, that’s what we were doing with