I heard a very distinct whisper just
a few days ago. Very distinct. So distinct that instead of just brushing it
away as nonsense, I smiled, because if it is true, squash will get back one
of its most charismatic players. No, nothing to do with Jansher or Jahangir.
The whisper said the Ahmed Barada, that wonderful Egyptian player who could
have gone right to the very top before a stabbing and public pressure got to
him, is back on court training and will be back on the circuit next year. Remember,
he’s still in his mid-twenties, which is a long way to go before his sell-by
date, which is Jansher’s problem.
rock star or squash star? photo
© 2002, D. Tessier
Don’t ask any Egyptian official,
coach or insider, because it will be denied or at least, ignorance of the
facts will be claimed. If it is true and Barada is back in time for the next
Men’s world team champs, the Egyptians will have Barada, Darwish and
Shabana – and that is a pretty good team.
THE ROCKIEST TRAIL OF ALL,
THE COMEBACK TRAIL
Barada could make the comeback, but the others who tried it, all over 30,
all had short memories. They just plain forgot how fit and sharp they were
when they were champions. Hunt tried a comeback in his mid-thirties after
a back operation made him feel good again and really only managed to stagger
to second base before giving up. Jansher is suddenly remembering what it feels
like to be several lungfulls short of fitness. And also the ankles, knees,
lower backs and arm suddenly stop working.
Susan Devoy was rumored to be
doing some exhibition matches with Michelle Martin this fall in the US. She
got together with Carol Owens in Auckland, New Zealand to have a hit and get
back into shape.
“No routines, no boasts
and drives. I hate boasts and drives. Let’s just have a hit,”
she said to Owens, a player who now stands on top of the world rankings.
To cut a very short story even
shorter, once the ‘hit’ was over, Ms. Devoy decided against the
exhibition ‘comeback’. The last rumour I had was Michelle Martin
is planning a comeback. Don’t do it, Michelle, please, don’t do
Just in case you haven’t been keeping up with the appointments: Liz
Irving is now Dutch National Coach, Michelle Martin has been appointed coach
of the Australian junior girls, and Natalie Pohrer, who is now playing under
the American flag (as we all knew she would), has been appointed coach to
the US junior girls.
MEET MARWHEN, WORLD SQUASH
In Denmark I met the person who will
almost certainly be world champion twenty years from now. His name is Marwhen
El Borolossy, and boy does he have the right genes. Father is Omar El Borolossy
and mother is Salma Shabana, sister of Egyptian whizz Amr Shabana. Marwhen
was six months old when I came across him, sitting comfortably in a squash
bag, his mother close by keeping an eye on him. Salma was playing for the
Egyptian team in the world championships and despite having been back on
court for only two months, was playing better than ever. She kept her maternal
priorities in the right order – baby came first. When they presented
the teams on court before the semi-finals, there was Marwhen on his mother’s
hip, very much part of the team, almost officially in the team. Why not?
The entire team, coaches and players from other countries had all been willing
baby-sitters, minders, bottle feeders – everything except wet nursing.
Salma was often seen suckling Marwhen at the side of the court while play
and practise went on. Without going into details, I wonder what kind of
Pavlovian response he will have in later life, every time he hears a squash
ball striking the front wall?
Super Star photo
© 2002, Danish Squash
He was a wonderfully inquisitive baby, his eyes never resting, taking it all
in. Now what are the chances of this person not playing squash in future?
NO LOGO IS NO NO FOR DUNLOP
Dunlop UK are so angry with Squash Player Magazine editor Ian McKenzie that
they are threatening to slap him with their handbag. Sent him a letter. On
It all started when McKenzie got tired of Dunlop expecting free publicity
on the one hand while not spending money on advertising on the other. So when
the magazine was going to use a large photo of Tania Bailey complete with
big Dunlop logo on her headband, he used electronic wizardry to erase it.
Dirty pool, cried Dunlop and went crying to three governing bodies who Dunlop
give money to for various endorsements and rights. (For example, the WSF get
a few thousand quid to formerly bless the very expensive Dunlop squash ball).
Poor old Ian got calls from various people telling him not to be an ungrateful
cad. Ian pointed out that he gets no advertising revenue from the big D so
why should he give them free plugs?
And then a few weeks ago a letter
drops through my letter box. It is on genuine Dunlop stationary, so not a
photo-copy, and it is a copy of a letter to Ian. The second paragraph starts:
“We note that your company has gone to great lengths to tamper with
the picture of Ms Bailey as to deface our valuable trade mark from Tania’s
clothing….” And finishes: “…we believe that damage
is being caused to the company which is actionable under common law.”
They finish by asking him to cease
from his naughty erasures or they will ‘seek the strongest possible
action in a court of law.’ As they had sent copies of this letter accusing
McKenzie of wrongdoing to Steve Line, Ted Wallbutton (WSF), Andrew Shelley
(WISPA), Gawain Briars (PSA), Nick Rider (England Squash) and Howard Harding,
I think that McKenzie might have a good counter claim for libel.
Mind you, the letter was from the
Dunlop Company Secretary. Well I mean, going to an actual lawyer costs money,
THE AUSSIES ARE BACK
After a definite hiatus when they couldn’t win anything, the Aussies
are back. They won the Men’s world team champs last year, the Women’s
team champs this year and the men are taking over the PSA top ten. In the
Qatar semis Peter Nicol was left to face three Australians. (I still regard
John White as Australian). And how long will it be before David Palmer, Stu
Boswell and Anthony Ricketts occupy the top three spots.
The only weak link in the Australian
challenge to world domination is in the junior women. I hope to be in Cairo
next summer when the Women’s Junior champs take place. The Egyptians
are favoured to sweep the boards with Omneya Abdel Kawy taking the singles
title. It will be interesting to see if the Aussies have improved in that
THE DINNER IS FREE IS IF YOU CHANGE WHEELS
I hope that when Andrew Shelley
does his official report of the Women’s team champs in Denmark,
he gives adequate praise all round for the way the Danes ran everything.
But specially the press room, where for once they had a couple of techno
experts and free broadband (ISDN) connections for the members of the press.
If the press had any problems with computers, these two guys fixed it
before they had finished explaining the problem. They were quite wonderful.
And to top it all off, that fine gentleman Oluf Jorgenson, who ran the
tournament, took Colin McQuillan and I out to dinner after the semi-finals
(before the long drive home from Copenhagen to Odense.) When we thanked
him for his hospitality he said “No, no, it is my pleasure. The
press are my heroes.” I almost choked on my ox-tail. Here was an
organiser who actually appreciated us. I just wish the clowns who run
the PSA had been around to hear that. For the last three years they have
been trying their best to keep us away.
So we piled back in the car and within five minutes we had to stop. We
had a flat.
Just when I was looking forward to a nice snooze on the 90 minute drive,
we had to pile out into the chill night air, unload the trunk of Olaf’s
Volvo station wagon and work out the jack, jacking points..etc. We changed
the wheel in 9.25 seconds flat. Alright so I’m lying. Within 15
minutes we were back on the road.
ST. ANDREW OF SOUTHGATE
I should report the following: At
the gala dinner in Denmark, after all and sundry had been thanked for their
efforts in making a successful event, Oluf then paid tribute to the technical
director, WISPA chief Andrew Shelley, ‘without him, this tournament would
never have taken place.’ The applause grew to a cheer and then a roar
and then to a thunderous table thumping. It must have gone on for almost a minute
and every person in the room joined in. Including me, and I don’t table-thump
for anyone. The man is respected throughout the squash world and is held in
great affection by all who know him. As far as I am concerned, put him charge
of the WSF, PSA, the United Nations and the World Bank. He’d run them
all superbly and still keep his mischievous sense of humour.
(center), the WISPA engine photo©
WHAT A DAY THIS HAS BEEN…..
It must have been a real roller coaster of day for Carol Owens. Through a
quirk in the ranking system, the November rankings put her at number one,
replacing Sarah Fitz-Gerald, who has been unbeaten for about two years. So
now she’s all ready to play Sarah in the Qatar final for a showdown
but along comes Natalie Pohrer in the semis and beats her. Now I know Carol
quite well and I can tell you she would rather have remained at number two
and beaten Sarah. In all her conversations Carol says she wants to beat Sarah
to get to number one. And she would not like to get to number one because
Sarah retires….she badly wants to beat her before retirement.