By ALAN THATCHER (Squash Mad Editor)
Ukraine will not be sending a squad to compete in the Women’s World Team Championship in Egypt in December following the latest political turmoil caused by Russia’s illegal invasion of the country.
In a staged announcement, orchestrated by the Kremlin, a representative of the Egyptian government appeared to support a fake “referendum” organised in conjunction with Vladimir Putin’s murderous annexation of Ukraine territories.
The purpose of the stunt was to show that populations of the invaded territories wished to continue under Russian rule.
Alongside a threat to use nuclear weapons, it is a desperate attempt by Putin to save face as Ukraine troops, supported by the West, are forcing Russian invaders to retreat in many parts of the country.
The stance by Egypt has angered the Ukraine squash community and they no longer wish to visit Egypt to compete in the women’s team event.
Alena Ohonesian, vice president of Ukraine Squash, told me today: “In the current situation in our country, I have to inform you that our team will not take part in the World Championship.
“Last week, the aggressor held a referendum on the annexation of our territories, and unfortunately there were representatives from Egypt at this pseudo referendum, who confirmed that (in their eyes) the referendum was fair.
“Therefore, we were forced to make the decision to cancel the trip. And now we continue to actively prepare our teams for the European Championships in 2023.”
Several fund-raising initiatives have been launched in squash to support the rebuilding of Ukraine Squash, including events taking place during the forthcoming World Squash Day on October 15.
During the early days of Russia’s invasion, several squash clubs in Kyiv were damaged by Russian shells.
However, players have returned to courts in Kyiv now that Ukrainian forces are regaining control of large parts of the country.
One event in the planning stages is the Pakistan-Ukraine Friendship Cup, involving professional players from across the world.
In a Facebook posted linked to the event, Alena said: “We will rebuild, we will restore! Ukraine will bloom! And we will plan new projects and hold many more mega cool tournaments with world-class players.”
Update: As soon as this article was published, there were calls on social media for other nations to boycott the Women’s World Team Championship in Cairo.
Picture courtesy of Ukraine Squash