By ALAN THATCHER
Should squash make its debut in the 2020 Olympic Games, my fervent wish is that the spread of medals can help to overcome prejudice and social issues in large parts of the world.
Just imagine if the 2020 women’s Olympic squash semi-finals featured four players from a variety of ethnic and social backgrounds, say an Egyptian, a Pakistani, an Afro-American graduate of an inner-city community squash programme, and a young player who had escaped the grinding poverty of the Soweto township in South Africa.
Women’s rights are being trampled in many parts of the world as religious zealots apply primitive laws to contemporary society.
In countries where women are treated as second-class citizens, bullying thugs are often employed to intimidate females to refrain from playing sport. Or seeking an education. Or getting a job. Or driving a car. The list of abuses applied to women is endless.
Young females like Maria Toor Pakay, who escaped from the violent threats of the Taliban to pursue her dream of becoming a squash player in Canada, is a brave role model.
So, too, are the numerous young female squash players in Egypt who can also provide hope to a society under threat from those same violent thugs, many of them in uniform, who are hiding behind a male-dominated regime.
Young Egyptians bravely played their part in overturning the old regime. They did not expect the new rulers to be even worse.
South Africa is working hard to create a multi-cultural, post-apartheid society. Sport can play a major part in this transformation. One of the highlights of the past few World Squash Day initiatives has been the sight of hundreds of township children being welcomed to squash clubs by hard-working squash enthusiasts in Johannesburg.
The USA has embraced the Williams sisters in tennis, along with the amazing Arthur Ashe, whose statue stands alongside so many famous military and political figures on Monument Avenue in Richmond, Virginia.
Wouldn’t it be wonderful to see similar champions emerge from America’s growing stable of urban squash programmes?
I could have extended my wish list of nations to include almost half the planet, especially with reports emerging from India and Brazil of the dangers women face when using public transport.
Sport has a powerful ability to break down barriers of all kinds, and my ideal framework for the future involves community projects which allow young people from any and every background to lead a healthy lifestyle, make friends, and set their own sporting goals with help from enlightened governing bodies who give everyone the same chance.
We in squash have a voice, thanks to the sum of 20 million people worldwide playing this amazing sport.
We should not waste any opportunity to use it.