By WAQAR HAMZA
KARACHI: Jonathan Power and Geoff Hunt, former squash greats, have confirmed their visit to Pakistan as guests at the Asian Masters Championship that is to be held in Lahore from September 2-6.
Sources informed ‘The News’ that they had asked a number of legendary players both from Pakistan and abroad to be their guests at the championship and so far Hunt and Power had confirmed their appearance. “This is just to make the world feel that Pakistan is safe for sports activities and to send across a message that players should not be afraid of visiting the country,” said a source.
He further said that they had written to many others, including Amr Shabana of Egypt and Jonah Barrington of England. Besides, he added, almost all former greats of Pakistan had been invited to the championship. “We have asked Jahangir Khan to help us and request legendary world squash players, on behalf of Pakistan squash, to be guests at the championship,” said the source.
Former player Qamar Zaman said that he would take part in the championship. “They have requested me to come and I will go to show the world that Pakistan is safe for sports activities,” he added.
Power, from Canada, became the world number one in 1999 and is considered one of the greatest shotmakers in the history of squash. He won 36 major events, including the World Open in 1998 and the British Open in 1999.
(Editor’s Note: Power is Head Coach at the National Squash Academy in Toronto, where he coaches Maria Tor Pakay, a promising young female squash player who fled Pakistan because of persistent threats from the Taliban,who actively discriminate against females and particularly female athletes.)
Hunt from Australia was the world number one squash player from 1975 to 1980. He won the World Open four times. Amr of Egypt won the World Open in 2003, 2005, 2007 and 2009, and reached the world number 1 ranking in 2006.
Pakistan is organising an international event after a very long time, in Lahore in which players from more than 35 Asian countries are to take part. It is expected that this will help bring international squash back to the country.
Indian players are also likely to participate in the event. “This is the reason why we have chosen Lahore as the venue because Indian squash authorities asked for that as it will be convenient for them,” said a source.