Egypt’s squash boss reveals secret behind team domination of the sport

By David Ochieng Mbewa

Egypt is, undoubtedly, currently the most dominant nation in the world of squash with the North African country accounting for at least half of the players ranked in the top 10 in both the men and women’s world rankings.

Egypt has also produced a world champion in the men’s event in eight of the last 10 years while the last seven winners in the women’s events have all been Egyptian.

FILE PHOTO: Egyptians Nour El Sherbini and Omneya Abdel Kawy compete during a past PSA Dubai World Series Finals in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. /CFP

This success has been attributed to several factors among them the zealous training of junior players, regular high quality competitions, fostering of a close-knit players’ community and the introduction of a dynamic style of squash.

However, according to Assem Khalifa, the president of the Egyptian Squash Association, there is also one key element to that success: the creation and selection of two strong squads able to take part in a team tournament.

While it is normal for a country or club to send its strongest athletes with dependable replacements to a competition, Khalifa said that notion has been taken to a different level in Egypt to an extent that both teams selected are essentially world beaters.

Khalifa, who spoke to CGTN, said that decision was borne out of a controversial moment nearly a decade ago involving former world champion Mohamed ElShorbagy. Khalifa claims ElShorbagy withdrew from the Egyptian team late on, a move which, he believes, ultimately cost the defending champions the men’s World Team Squash Championship against England.

“I will tell you a secret that I’ve been holding for so long, this is the first time I ever tell it. The first time Mohamed didn’t join the team was in 2013. 48 hours before our trip, he informed me that he won’t join me, after confirming that he would. We lost 2-1 in the final. It’s a competition we should have won,” Khalifa told CGTN.

Mohamed ElShorbagy, formerly of Egypt, competes against Cameron Pilley of Australia during a past PSA Dubai World Series Finals in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. /CFP

Khalifa accused ElShorbagy of being aloof and not joining up with the team during such events prompting a rethink of Egypt’s strategy in approaching such tournaments.

“This incident made me always prepare to have two groups in the national team both of them capable of winning the world championship.”

Last month, ElShorbagy switched allegiance opting to represent England citing a lack of support in Egypt and choosing a means to advance his career.

Khalifa, on the other hand, does not regret the decision noting that it has been a resounding success and cemented the country’s position as one of the sport’s powerhouses globally.

“Since then, 2013, we have never lost a world championship. This is what made us today have six players in the (men’s) top 10 ranking. The reason behind that is Mohamed ElShorbagy.”

(Story compiled with assistance from wire reports)

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