Egyptian stars delight the crowds as Pakistan look to restore days of squash glory
By SULEMAN KHAN – Squash Mad Pakistan Correspondent
Pakistan squash is optimistic of reviving the country’s squash fortunes after a well-received exhibition and coaching clinic delivered by Egyptian stars Karim Abdel Gawad and Mazen Hesham.
Both players received a wonderfully warm welcome to Karachi for a special occasion that squash enthusiasts in Pakistan hope will lead to a regeneration of the sport’s fortunes in a country that once ruled the squash world.
Karachiites saw two top international squash players in action after a very long time on Tuesday as Karim Abdel Gawad and Mazen Hesham, both from Egypt, played an exhibition match at DHA Creek Club.
World number 8 Karim beat world number 13 Mazen 13-11, 4-11, 11-7, 8-11, 12-10 in a match that lasted a little more than an hour and attracted hundreds of spectators.
Mazen showed his masterful skills and got huge applause from the spectators due to some very creative shots.
Karim got huge respect from the crowd due to his skill to counter the killing shots of Mazen.
The audience gave them standing ovation and a huge round of applause. “We really enjoyed coming to Pakistan and playing this match in the best interest of the game of squash as it needs a revival in Pakistan,” said Karim after the match. “I agreed to come here because Egypt has been facing the same security issues,” he said.
He added that he found the people of Karachi very friendly.
Former cricket captains Waseem Akram and Moin Khan also graced the occasion. Famous hockey goalkeeper Shahid Ali Khan, badminton star Iftikhar Ahmed and table tennis star Arif Nakhuda were also present.
“I grew up watching Jahangir Khan and Jansher Khan,” said Waseem. “I used to play squash and it’s a tough sport,” said the former fast bowler.
He wished all the best to the Egyptian players.
Karim received $10,000 from Fuad Cochinwala of One Step Diagnostic and $1000 from Kazim Anwar.
Mazen received $10,000 from Cochinwala and $500 from Anwar.
President Sindh Squash Association (SSA) Muzaffar Ali Shujra distributed souvenirs and ajraks among the players and the dignitaries.
The Egyptian players distributed 20 squash rackets among the junior players of Sindh.
“My roots are in Karachi and I wanted to give back to the city where my squash career began,” said Jahanzeb, who organised the event.
“I want to revive the sport of squash and help the players and the country,” he said.
“As you all know, the law and order situation is so unstable that foreigners don’t feel comfortable traveling to our beautiful country. I want to help change this image of Pakistan, so I arranged this event,” he added.
“Normally they [the Egyptian players] charge $15,000 per player for their services, but they share my vision to promote squash in Karachi, so they agreed to cut their price to $10,000 each,” said Jahanzeb.