The Global Gallery: Views on the world of squash by Martin Bronstein

Global Gallery Number Nine: Sept 12, 1999   ©1999 SquashTalk

[Who is Martin Bronstein?]

Read the past Global Gallery Columns:

[#Eight, Aug 3, 1999]     
[#Seven, July 5, 1999]     [#Six, June 9, 1999]     [#Five, June 6, 1999 (Power/Nicol head-to-head)]     [#Four, May 5, 1999]     [#Three, May 2, 1999]     [#Two, April 2, 1999]    [# One, March 8, 1999]


Mamoud Karim

British Open !?!

Jansher and PIA

Heath’s Drop

Nicol

Nimick and Jones


AUGUST 1999, London England

SAD TIMING.

On the day that the huge festival of squash started in Cairo, one of the greats of the game, Mamoud Abdul Karim, a native of Cairo, died at the age of 83. His skills were legendary and there still aficionados who think he was the greatest of them all. Karim won the British Open in 1947, 48 and 49 and was runner up many times.

I was lucky enough to sit next to him at the very first Al Ahram and experienced the warmth of this lovely outspoken man. I also interviewed at length and he told me that when it was apparent that he would replace Amr Bey, he was offered money to lose to him in the British Open – an offer he rejected. When I got back to London, the cassette containing this wonderful interview had disappeared and now his words will be lost forever. But not, however, my memory of that unique evening in front of the Pyramids.

THE ART OF THE BRITISH OPEN – OR PROCRASTINATION RULES, OK?.

Those folksy people at England’s SRA got very huffy when I reported that the British Open would take place in Aberdeen in December. They e-mailed Ron Beck telling him not to rely on "uninformed/ill-informed journalists". It was the sort of PR idiocy you get when you get your father, wife or mistress to do it rather than hire a professional PR outfit.

Maybe I’m not so ill -informed. Here’s the story gathered from a number of reliable sources. There were two groups vying for the Open: CPA headed by Chris Walker’s brother Neil and Alan Thatcher,a journalist. They wanted to put the Open in in Aberdeen in November. The other company, SNG, proposed a long-term sponsorship involving 1.2 million pounds. The SRA decided to go with SNG but the negotiations took so long they realised they would not have time to put it on this year. So the SRA then asked CPA to take it over for 1999. CPA said it was too short a notice to do it in November and wanted to stage it December 7-12. Problem was that was the date of the Pakistan Open. So they changed it to December 19 and then changed it back again when PSA president John Nimick said he could change the Pakistan event.

Sadly, the SRA had taken so long to make a decision, CPA had lost some of its sponsors and no longer had enough prize money. So they approached SNG and offered to share the Open with them.

We were promised an announcement last Friday, September 10. So far nothing has come out of the august offices of the SRA. Remember that closing date for offers was July 31st. A decision was promised within weeks. Still no decision. Which is why, even as I write this on September 12, no one can say for certain what is happening with the British Open.

The reason that the SRA is so touchy is that they now realise what a very bad move it was to postpone the Open. Even staging an event with decimated prize money would have kept the tradition going. Now, with all this procrastination, they feel even more vulnerable. So they blame the journalists.

ALL IN THE AIR.

I met Squadron Leader M Fazal of the Pakistan Air Force who was in Cairo as manager of the Pakistan team. (Never knew flying and squash had so much in common). The coach is Maqsood and he told me that Jansher would not be playing because he didn’t want to – it’s his knees, y’know. I’ve also heard that he wasn’t picked because he has no ranking and failed to play in the team trials. I think the real truth is that his ego and tongue have once more got in the way of sensible behaviour. Jansher has been at loggerheads with his federation, Pakistan International Airways and almost everyone else. He expects to be treated like a king and have all his travel and hotel arrangements made for him. He expected wild cards in Hong Kong and the World Open and when they never materialised he refused to play in them. With his future all behind him now, there’ll be less and less curtsies. Indeed, he will soon find it hard to find someone to carry his squash bag.

THE BIG DROP.

Last year Martin Heath outpaced his countryman Peter Nicol to get to the final of the Al Ahram. He earned $15,000 for his efforts and the ranking ranking points shot him to number five in the world, a position he has failed to live up to, losing in the first rounds and lower ranked players. After a first round loss In the Libertel he quipped that perhaps he would play better if he stopped thinking. The crunch will come in the Al Ahram World Open; if he doesn’t do well, in the October rankings he will take a large drop in rankings because last year’s result willbe nullified. When he beat the very talented Egyptian Junior, Karim Darwish,in the second round, he threw his racket high in the air and let out a howl of delight. He’s feeling the pressure…

NICOL AND DIMES.

The Scots had a very good chance at the world team title with Peter Nicol, John White and Martin Heath, but then the much admired Nicol blotted his copybook by refusing to play for his country because they had no sponsorship and there would be little money in it. Martin Heath then withdrew saying he wasn’t going to play his heart out to come fifth or sixth – he wanted Scotland to win. So now Scotland will be headed by Aussie John White, with Marcus Cowie and David Heath, Martin’s younger brother.

FROM RACKETS TO CLUBS.

Tom and Hazel Jones have got right out of squash. After 22 years they closed Squash News and now they’ve sold the title of the US Open to the USSRA. John Nimick will probably run it with Angus Kirkland and other for at least this year.

Nimick got such a charge out of his Turnament of Champion tournament in January he realised that’s what he likes doing most. Which is why he decided to quit the PSA.

You can’t blame him, considering the story of the Singapore Open. Six weeks before the event he was informed that it was cancelled. Three weeks before, he was told it was on again, but now as a WISPA event. Talks about ulcers. He leaves the PSA at the end of September and makes way for former world number four Gawain Briars, now a practising lawyer.

A damn good choice. Gawain was one of the first softball players I met. At the time I was living in Toronto and the hardball game was flourishing with players like Sharif Khan, Gordie Anderson, Clive Caldwell, Stu Goldstein and Frank Satterthwaite – just before th emergence of Mark Talbott. The squash magazine I was writing for asked me if I would like to go down to the Bahamas and write on squash in those sunny isles.

I was on the next plane and by sheer chance came across Briars, Ian Robinson, John LeLievre and Richard Mosley who were doing an exhibition tour. So It’s twenty years of acquaintanceship with Briars. It will be interesting to see what he feels are the priorities for the PSA.


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page posted 9.12.99