By ALAN THATCHER – Squash Mad Editor
Mohamed ElShorbagy is the latest Egyptian squash superstar to comment on political issues involving the Arab world and Israel.
He joins fellow world champions Ali Farag and Tarek Momen in making comments critical of Israel.
On day one of the World Championships in Cairo, ElShorbagy took to social media to express his horror at Israeli police attacking mourners carrying the coffin of Palestinian-America Jazeerah journalist Shireen Abu Aqla.
Abu Aqla, 51, was a veteran correspondent for Al Jazeera’s Arabic news channel and had reported on the Israel-Palestinian conflict for two decades.
She was shot dead while covering an Israeli military raid in Jenin in the occupied West Bank on Wednesday. Many reports have claimed that the shots were fired by the Israeli forces.
World No.3 ElShorbagy, who was world champion in 2017, posted on Twitter:
“Is there a limit to this cruelty. Is there any respect for the dead?? Will anybody speak up against this brutality?!!? just imagine the western uproar if Russia did this.”
His comments came on day one of the World Championships as he won his opening match in straight games against Balazs Farkas of Hungary.
On the same day, the killing of Abu Aqla was condemned by the UN Security Council.
ElShorbagy’s comments followed those made by reigning world champion Ali Farag, who criticised Israeli aggression towards Palestine during his speech after claiming the Optasia Championship by beating Diego Elias at Wimbledon on March 11.
He told the crowd he hoped he was not speaking out of turn when he mentioned the global outrage at Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and claimed that Palestine had been putting up with similar treatment from Israel for many years.
Tarek Momen, the 2019-20 world champion, also posted his thoughts on social media about Malaysia being stripped of the rights to host the Men’s World Team Championship that had been scheduled for Kuala Lumpur in December after refusing to issue visas to Israeli team players.
In a lengthy Facebook post, Momen said:
I am against war and the people of Ukraine have my full support during this tough ordeal….But…:
A few months ago, Malaysia was stripped off the chance to host the World Teams event because and I quote “Politics should never be involved in Sports”.
Malaysia has a firm stance in supporting the Palestinian cause so they refused to issue visas for the Israeli team. Accordingly Malaysia was stripped of the right to host the tournament and eventually it got cancelled.
Now I’m surprised to see Russian and Belarus athletes being sanctioned for a political matter they’re not even involved in !!! I believe most of those athletes are against this war, so how come all of a sudden sports events became the platform to make political statements??
I don’t get it really!!! Sports and Politics big NO NO or a definite YES?? Or is it a case by case kind of topic?
Some fun facts about the World Teams in Malaysia:
1) Israel has had active pro squash players on the PSA World Tour for the past 20 years.
2) Despite having active players, not once have they decided to send a Team to participate at the World Teams. Like NEVER, and that’s around 20 events in the past 40 years.
3) When Malaysia took on the responsibility to host the tournament following New Zealand’s withdrawal due to COVID restrictions, Israel decided to send a Team for the first time EVER (despite what I mentioned in points 1 & 2).
Their first participation just happened to be at the only edition hosted by Malaysia, the country that has no diplomatic ties with them.
Makes me wonder about the true reason behind their participation; was it for the love of the sport or was there a political agenda behind it?
I guess we can only speculate of course; can’t know for sure.
In further social media posts, ElShorbagy complained that it was time to end Covid restrictions banning players from having contact with coaches and their personal physios during tournaments.
And Momen posted an ironic Tweet after being drawn to meet world No.1 Paul Coll at the quarter-final stage in three consecutive tournaments, the World Championships, El Gouna and Mauritius.
He wrote out the draws involving the top eight seeds in all three events and said: “Spot the three differences in all draws combined.”
Squash is fortunate to have three such intelligent and articulate world champions who are not afraid to speak their mind and share their opinions.
COMMENT: Readers are invited to share their thoughts in the Comments panel below.
Just saw this. Criticism is always ok, if it is fair and balanced. That is often not the case, when there’s some issue with Israel.
Mohammed: the police did not manage the situation in the best way, apparently. But if you have not said a word condemning axing and stabbing and shooting innocent Israelis, old and young, to death, then it might be better to say nothing.
Ali: has reversed the situation, as Palestinians are part of Arab nation, hugely bigger than Israel, many countries showing deep animosity, even the countries that have made peace treaties. In that regard Israel is the underdog.
Tarek: so the problem is Israeli attempt to participate, and it is totally ok for Malaysia to have racist discrimination policies?
These three are not the only Egyptian world champions to speak like this. A few years ago Amr Shabana shared some antisemitic trash in Twitter, have forgotten the details, though.
I love the way these guys play, but they really should think more.