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… and also some very sad news …


Martin Bronstein’s astigmatic view of the world
of squash

© 2003 All rights
reserved. photos © 2003, Suashtalk, D. Tessier,


Just as I sat down to write this Gallery, an email winged on to my spanking
new iMac computer, which, with a bit of luck, I shall learn to use competently
before July 2006.

This email announced
that a Men¹s World Open will take place this year. Hurrah, I thought,
in my best British accent, good old Anil Singh of Procam, the Indian Promoters,
has finally delivered.


And then I read further…..my elation slumped. The 2003 World Open would
not take place in India at all, but in Pakistan. In Lahore , December
14-21, to be precise.

What ? WHAT???
Anil Procam and Procam are nowhere in sight, not a trace. The Bermuda
Triangle has struck again.

For those of
bad memory, it was just four years ago that the PSA trumpeted a wonderful
new zillion dollar deal which gave Procam the rights to the men¹s
world open for five years. In order to do this PSA had to, er, now how
can I put this without incurring libel lawyers? Steal would be the wrong,
so let¹s say, the PSA took back the 2000 event from the Melbourne
Squash Festival which had been agreed years before, and gave it to Procam.
And then refused to refund the $5,000 franchise fee to the Aussies.

Now, as soon
as the deal was announced, the late Raju Chainani, a squash journalist
who knew all the inside dope on everyone in squash, just laughed and in
his knowing way said "Don¹t hold your breath." And another
very knowledgeable insider said simply, "It will never happen."

And so along
came 2001 and we waited with bated breath for Procam¹s announcement
and we were constantly told that a sponsor signing was imminent. But then
9/11 happened and quick as a flash, Procam cancelled the 2001 Open…..

The 2002 event
had long been signed to Antwerp, which gave Procam a breathing space,
time, we thought, for them to really get their act together for 2003.
Nothing. Rien. Nada. Not a peep from the sub-continent. (Whatever that

Well, it seems
that dear old Raju was right. The deal was just hot air with as much substance
as a Bronx cheer. A PSA spokesman is reported to have said that the deal
with Procam was cancelled a year ago. Funny, no announcement was made
at the time… I wonder why?

So it is fortunate
that the Pakistan Squash Federation has jumped in to bail out the PSA
and that our top players will have a major tournament in place of the
cancelled Cathay Pacific Hong Kong Open.

So,If my dear
friends at the PSA come up with an air ticket and hotel, I shall gladly
cover the event for Squashtalk. If you see pigs flying in December, log
on to Squashtalk.


Last month I gloomily pondered a squash season without a British Open,
Cathay Pacific and World Open. The skies have brightened considerably
(see above) as we will also have a British Open as well.

That most venerated
of squash tournaments will take place this year. For a few months it seemed
that it would not: no sponsor could be found. so when American promoter
John Nimick and Brit promoter John Beddington got together and secured
the rights to the tournament for three years, there was a huge sigh of
relief that the tournament was in safe, professional and experienced hands.
But even with their combined talents, they were unable to secure a title
sponsor for this year. (Business is bad everywhere). The
main reason was that there simply wasn¹t enough time. You need at
least a full year to plan and execute a major tournament and Nimick and
Beddington had just a few months.

In order to
ensure the continuity, Nimick and Beddington are staging the Open in
Nottingham in September on a minor scale with 16 player draws for both
men and women. The women¹s prize fund is $26,000 and the men will
share $45,000. This compares to $65,000 and $95,000 in 1994, the last
year of the great Hi-Tec sponsorship at the wonderful Wembley Conference
Centre, home of the Open for ten years and where Jahangir ruled supreme.

I think it
is a sensible decision to keep the continuity going, but this by no means
lets Nimick and Beddington off the hook; the pressure is still on the
promoters to stage a major Open next year.

Nimick has
told me that he wants to make London the home of the Open and he and Beddington
have toured new office buildings, conference centres, theatres and many
other sites for a venue that will rank with the Pyramids in Egypt, Grand
Central Terminus
in New York and Boston Symphony Hall in Boston.

For 2003 however,
the Open will take place at the Nottingham Squash Club (for qualifying
and age groups) and the Albert Hall, a conference centre, in Nottingham.
(Not to be confused with the grand Albert Hall in London.) The glass court
will be surrounded by 750 seats which will still make it one of the major
British tournaments this year.


I¹m working my way through a new book on squash, entitled "Squash,
a History
of the Game" by James Zug. In the opening chapter entitled "The
Trembled on The Spit" Zug writes:

" …I
have tried to find a narrative equipoise between retelling the legends
of the game and explaining the quotidian circumstance from which they

If I have to
look up my dictionary twice in every sentence I shall finish reading the
book about the same time as I master this iMac. But I will have a complete
revue by September lst on Squashtalk, HONEST!


If squash has suffered in comparison to golf because it is so cheap, the
promoters of the English Open later this month have a way to rectify that.
If you would like to play on the sparkling new glass court erected in
The Crucible, you can rent it for £200 an hour. There is also an
auction in aid of the British Heart Foundation with the top prize being
an hour on court. Tim Garner, one of the promoters, wrote:

" My
Dad received a heart transplant several years ago, so the BHF charity
really is close to the heart"

Not a good choice
of cliches there, Tim.


I was doing a small comment piece on Frenchman Gregory Gaultier for Planete
Squash, a quarterly French magazine. I mentioned that I had first seen
Gaultier at Princeton in ’98 for the Men¹s Junior world champs. He
had dyed his hair bright red, while team-mate Nicolas Siri had dyed his
hair blue and another team mate was supposed to dye his white to represent
the French Tricolour. And I wondered what had happend to Siri since then.

Well it seems
that he had not done well academically and was asked to leave the French
national training centre. And from being a promising player, he disappeared.
Two weeks ago he had a game of squash with his father, complained of a
stomach ache and later that day was found dead, from a heart attack. He
was 23 years old.

I was still
recovering from that news when I heard that Ahmed Safwat had died, also
from a heart attack. This news really hurt, and anyone who ever met Ahmed
will understand. He was a truly lovely man, always a warm smile hovering
around his lips and a mischievous twinkle in his eye.

He was a most
elegant and intelligent squash player and whenever I watched him playing
in age groups and masters tournaments, I learned something. His brain
worked all the time and his shot placement was impeccable. He, of all
players, deserved the tag ‘Gentleman¹.

Never an argument
with the officials, never any hostility towards his opponent and he probably
called less lets in a game than any other player. He played squash at
very highest level and when he left the court, you could never tell whether
he had won or lost – no crowing, punching the air when he won, no sour
grapes when he lost.

For journalists,
he was a bright light. He understood the game and could analyse any part
of it; his English was good enough so that he could articulate his findings.
As a coach of the Egyptian women¹s team, it was always a pleasure
to go to Ahmed for a quote after a match, because you would end up with
a valuable insight, which made one¹s report seem that much more intelligent.

He was universally
liked and admired and as so many people have commented, you will never
find anyone with a bad word to say about the man.

Ahmed Safwat
burnished the sport and will be much missed.