By MIKE DALE (Squash Mad Correspondent)
Aussie legend Rodney Martin has weighed into the debate over the behaviour of Egypt’s divisive young superstar Mostafa Asal.
World No.4 Asal was disqualified from October’s US Open for striking his opponent Lucas Serme on the ear, one of several incidents currently being scrutinised by the PSA World Tour disciplinary committee. In January, Asal was suspended for two months for unspecified “on-court disciplinary matters”.
Asal’s movement and alleged blocking and barging of opponents are the subject of much discussion and controversy, stoked by recent comments by top coach Rob Owen and a public attack on social media in June last year by former world champion Tarek Momen.
In last week’s two-part Squash Mad exclusive interview with RJ Mitchell, Asal defended himself, accusing opponents of trying to use his reputation to con referees and insisting he has “solved” his movement issues.
Now Martin – the 1991 world champion and current coach of Asal’s compatriots Nouran Gohar and Marwan ElShorbagy – has added to criticism of Asal in an interview with the In Squash podcast, hosted by Gerry Gibson.
Martin, 57, claims Asal’s movement issues are nothing new, refuting allegations from the player and many of his supporters on social media that referees are victimising the Egyptian because of his reputation.
Martin first watched Asal, then aged 17, disqualified in the 2018 Nash Cup in Canada against Jamaica’s Chris Binnie, who Martin then coached (see link below).
“I’ve never seen somebody cause so much disruption in a match,” said Martin. “Back then, Mostafa had no preconceived reputation, no-one was talking about him, but he got the match awarded against him because of the antics and the things he did.
“This has been going on for years. Talk to anyone who saw him play or played against him as a junior, he was doing exactly the same things all the way through the junior ranks. People (who now accuse referees of being influenced by his reputation) don’t see that.
“I’ve seen it from day one on Tour. I’ve never seen somebody waste as much time, fake an injury, have a three-minute break when he was losing or getting fatigued, come back on court and fly around on court at a million miles an hour.
“The refs should be straight on to someone who does that and giving a conduct stroke against him. There’s nothing wrong with him, he’s just wasting time. He’s done this for years and I’ve got no sympathy for him because he’s been taught to do this. He’s used it to his advantage to get up the rankings. He used whatever he needed to do to win.”
Martin concedes that Asal “is not the only one” he’s accusing of such antics, stating that it “has been going on for a long, long time.” He cites the great Ahmed Barada, Gregory Gaultier and Mohamed and Marwan ElShorbagy as examples of players who made adjustments after their on-court movement was penalised by referees and the game’s authorities.
However, Martin added that Asal’s size and bulk – 6ft 3in and 83kg – was a mitigating factor in the high incidences of body contact during his matches.
“There are definitely players on Tour who are totally over the top with (exaggerating) little bumps and whingeing all the time about everything little thing that happens. He’s a big guy and there’s only so much space on the court.
“Some take it to extremes and think every little bump is on purpose. I don’t think every bump is on purpose but there are some really blatant moves he does when he needs it, and he has done it for years.
“If he keeps doing it, he should get a conduct stroke, a conduct game and the match awarded against him. If he has got to get banned again to get it done, then change, because it’s not good for the sport. There are more arguments now than there have ever been, watching the game. It has been ridiculous.”
Finally, the Sydney-born legend, now based in Connecticut, USA, passed on advice to Asal from legendary Aussie Rules player and coach Leigh Matthews.
“He said to look at things as a group in a common-sense way,” he explained. “If you’re about to do an action, would the organisation be better or worse off through that action?
“If everybody did exactly the same movements as Asal, getting their body in the way, keeping their back leg out, do you think the sport would be better or worse off? There’s only one answer: they’d be worse off, so you’ve got to stop it.”
InSquash Podcast with Rodney Martin: here
Momen threatens to quit in Facebook attack on Asal: report
Inside The Mind of Mostafa Asal: interview
Mostafa Asal accuses rivals of using his reputation to con refs to win cheap points: Interview
‘Mostafa Asal is destined for greatness but he needs to sort out his conduct on court’ says Rob Owen: Interview
Nash Cup report from 2018 as Asal goes AWOL after two conduct strokes and is disqualified: Report
Pictures courtesy of PSA World Tour and Nathalie Goossens