SQUASH: Azlan’s effort bears fruit
IT took a lot of effort and convincing but Azlan Iskandar believes all the hard work will be worth it when the Malaysia Tour Squash Circuit leads to a change in the way the sport operates in the country.
The launch of the circuit in Putrajaya by Sports Minister Datuk Seri Ahmad Shabery Cheek yesterday will fill a vacuum in Malaysian squash for national back-up and junior players lacking an avenue to showcase their talent and make a living off the sport.
Verily, a few talented players fall off the grid after finding opportunities hard to come by and Azlan has been hard at work looking to fill the gap ever since he announced his retirement last year.
His own Azlan Iskandar Squash Academy has been a driving force behind the circuit which convinced the Sports Ministry and sponsors ASB Squash Courts, Ashaway, Maxis and two privates investors to back the project for three years.
“A lot of people run to the ministry for money but we have pitched a plan which will allow us to use Rakan Muda and IKBN (National Youth Skills Institute) centres for squash with the ministry being the facilitator,” said Azlan, the 2010 Asian Games individual gold medalist.
“With the backing of the Sports Ministry, we can also reach out to the Education Ministry and conduct programmes in schools.
“I have been running my academy for a year and a half and we have been providing reports on the academy’s progress to show we are serious about this.
“People are usually wary about how these type of plans will be executed but now that we have the ministry on board, we will get the masses behind it and the centres that have stood empty will now be put to use.”
The 10-leg squash circuit will largely run in venues where Azlan’s academy has a presence and the former World No 10 hopes that national players will gain from competing on the circuit.
“I wish someone had done this when I was 17 years old. For a player who wins all 10 events, it will be worth RM38,000 to him and that’s a decent sum,” said Azlan.
“This is my way of giving back to the sport and help supplement the effort of SRAM (Squash Racquets Association of Malaysia) in developing the sport.
“It will also help create job opportunities for coaches and the players can do their part to popularise the sport. The fact that the circuit will be held near my academies means the juniors will have a chance to watch professionals in action.”
Azlan said RM300,000 prize money will be on offer with fields consisting of 32-draw for the men and 16-draw for the women though that would depend on the number of entries with scope for enlargement.
Foreign players wishing to compete must be based in Malaysia for eight weeks prior to an event and entries are capped at two per country.
This is to encourage foreign players to set up shop here and train with local players.
The first leg starts in Kemaman on Feb 15.