The significant growth of Squash in Qatar, Kuwait and Jordan will soon lead to the Gulf region producing a world champion says Egypt’s world number one Ramy Ashour.
“I really believe that a Gulf country can produce a world champion – there is so much happening there right now, and it is very intense,” declared the reigning twice world champion from Cairo.
Squash is a major sport featured at the Aspire Academy for Sports Excellence, the Qatar centre which was launched in Doha in 2004 and attracted Australian Institute of Sport director and Squash legend Geoff Hunt to become its Head Coach in 2006. In conjunction with the Qatar Squash Federation, the distinguished four-time world champion and eight-time British Open champion has led Qatari squash forward.
Under the Aspire Academy’s guidance, Qatar’s Abdulla Al Tamimi won last month’s Dutch Junior Open and Pioneer Junior Open in Germany – two of the leading events on the European Junior Squash circuit – before defying the seedings by reaching the World Junior Championship semi-finals in Poland.
The 18-year-old has been awarded a graduate scholarship by Aspire to assist his aspirations to become a top professional.
“No other Qatari has done as well at junior squash as Abdulla. Further success at senior level will certainly have positive flow onto other aspiring squash players in Qatar.”
Similar success is being experienced elsewhere in the Gulf region, where highly professional junior programmes are already bearing fruit on the world squash stage.
Kuwait’s Head Coach Nasser Zahran said: “Squash is taken very seriously in Kuwait. We have a programme to build right through from the bottom upwards. The Kuwaiti Federation uses a team of coaches and physical trainers to improve skills and fitness levels.”
These efforts bore fruit in Poland last month when Yousif Nizar Saleh became the first Kuwaiti to reach the quarter finals of the World Junior Championship.
Another emerging Squash nation is Jordan, whose capital city Amman successfully hosted the Asian Junior Championships in June this year.
The Jordan junior programme was started over a decade ago, but took its present form four years ago, according to Ramzi Tabbalat, President of the Jordan Squash Federation.
Ahmad Al-Saraj, who has been under the care of Jordan Squash Federation since first playing squash at the age of seven, also made history at the Poland World Championships by becoming the first Jordanian to be seeded in the top four.
“Having players like Al-Saraj is key,” admitted Tabbalat. “His gradual ascent on the ladder of world squash is instrumental in providing encouragement and a role model for the kids.
“The system in Jordan has revolved around having dedicated coaches to manage training and waiving all expenses so that families do not have to pay for any coaching, court times or equipment. We have also renovated squash courts in other cities in Jordan and provide local coaches. All of this has made squash presence in the local media very strong.”