Asal admits to mind games as rivals and fans accuse him of damaging the sport
By ALAN THATCHER – Squash Mad Editor
World champion Tarek Momen has launched an astonishing attack on social media complaining about the on-court antics of Mostafa Asal, who last night beat Mohamed ElShorbagy to win the men’s final at the CIB PSA World Tour Finals in Cairo.
Momen posted his thoughts on Facebook in the early hours of Sunday morning after losing to Asal in a highly contentious semi-final.
The match was littered with incidents of physical contact, time-wasting and constant conflicts with the referee. In a lengthy statement, Momen accused the 20-year-old Asal of faking injury and a “history of questionable behaviour”.
Stunningly, Momen ended his comments with a threat to quit the sport if his name was ever linked again with Asal’s in any context other than a tournament draw.
He wrote: “The day I feel MY NAME IS PAIRED UP WITH ASAL in any context other than the draw, is the day I would retire immediately and ask to be stripped of any titles I’ve achieved.”
Today, Momen copied his comments and uploaded them to Twitter.
He wrote: “About last night: I’m not bothered one bit by the fact that I lost the match, what’s really bothering me is seeing my name paired up with Asal’s as bad adverts for the sport.
“Although I do agree it must have been horrible to watch, imagine having to deal with it first hand on court while keeping your calm.
“I’ve been competing on tour for 16 years, I’ve played almost 470 matches and I’m positive that at least 450 of those were free flowing, highly entertaining matches played with the utmost respect and no issues with the referees whether I won or lost.
“I’ve always wanted to play this game with integrity, never pick up double bounces (knowingly), call my tins and be fair and respectful to my opponents, NEVER fake injuries and most importantly NEVER try to use someone’s reputation against them (like it was suggested in the commentary last night).
“I would never do that to manipulate the refs when my opponent has done nothing wrong.
“I’m also extremely emotional and I try to conduct myself on court the best way I can, sometimes it can come off a bit intense but I’ve been trying so hard to argue less with the refs and only ask for explanations with no further comments even if I’m angry. Keeping in mind that I’ve played many, many matches where I didn’t even need to talk to the ref from start to finish.
“Sometimes, however, you could lose control when you face an opponent who has a “win at all cost mentality” and the ref’s not on to it.
“Yesterday was one of those matches and I apologise if I argued a bit too much. I’m just unable to figure out what’s the best way to deal with those situations, I find it hard to accept defeat without fighting for my right to a fair game.
“Having said that, I hope people can tell the difference between those who engage in ugly matches like that all the time (!!!) and those who are dragged into these situations when their opponent has a history of serious questionable behaviour.
“Also one last thing, (commentators) Joey and PJ don’t always get it right
“The day I feel MY NAME IS PAIRED UP WITH ASAL in any context other than the draw, is the day I would retire immediately and ask to be stripped of any titles I’ve achieved.”
After beating Momen on Saturday, Asal admitted that mind games were a major part of his approach to matches. He said: “It was a very tough game and mentally it was really, really tough. Mind games is my job, you know, that is what I am good at and I am learning from Mohamed ElShorbagy and just how mentally tough he is. I didn’t know whether the quality of squash between me and Tarek was good today but mentally and physically I was there.
“[There was] lots of interference, too much talking as well so I am happy to be through. Tarek is an unbelievable player and a world champion and all credit to him. I grew up learning from him so I am really happy to be through and I am looking forward to my next match.”
After the match, social media was abuzz with squash fans complaining about Asal’s tactics and temperament.
American coach Craig LaSota wrote: “Every one of Asal’s post-strike movements is a direct line to the T, interfering with and unyielding to Momen’s right to a direct line to the ball as the striker. This has been consciously trained into Asal’s game and is a horrendous piece of bad sportsmanship. If continued to be left unchecked by the obvious incompetent reffing, it will destroy our game.”
A reader called Jonny Williams responded by saying: “This is the core of the issue. Flamboyant celebrations and even the odd dispute with the ref is fine (if a little obnoxious), but it’s so blatant that he uses his stature and movement to impede his opponents at every possible opportunity. If this isn’t cracked down on it seriously risks undermining the sport, as concessions have to be made in a constricted space otherwise the game becomes unplayable and irritating to watch.”
Other comments, published on the PSA World Tour Facebook page, were even more critical, accusing Asal of cheating and damaging the game by his behaviour.
Ironically, the man Asal beat in last night’s final, former world champion ElShorbagy, stood up for Asal before and after the match before a packed crowd at the Mall of Arabia.
He congratulated Asal’s triumph in a Tweet saying: “A new superstar is born in our sport! I hope people start appreciating the talent @mostafasal_ has as much as I do! Proud that his first ever big title was against me as I am sure it will be the first of many more. Can’t wait to be a part of his journey for next few years.”
ElShorbagy beat Asal in a 93-minute encounter in the group stage on day one and, after toppling New Zealand’s Paul Coll in the semi-finals, he said: “It (Group A) was the group of death, and I think myself and Asal were the best two players and we are the best two in the tournament.
“We completely deserve to be in the final. I have played against so many players, from those 10 years older than me, like Nick Matthew and Gregory Gaultier. Players from my own generation like Ali (Farag), my brother (Marwan), Gawad and now I am playing Asal, who is 10 years younger than me.
“I love the guy off the court. He is one of the nicest guys on Tour. For me, he is a winner and he will win so many titles.”
Squash Mad has contacted Mostafa Asal to offer him the opportunity to respond to Tarek Momen’s comments.
Readers are invited to comment below.
Andy Whipp on Mostafa Asal: Cut out the gamesmanship and he could be squash’s biggest superstar
Pictures courtesy of PSA
At last, a player puts his head above the parapet to speak honestly about his feeling towards an opponent. Exactly what the games needs to raise its profile. You never know, non squash fans might be intrigued by Momen’s rocket for Super Brat and explore the sport further.
A very important factor to consider here is how the refs interpret the rules.
In my opinion we have to start either follow them or re-write them and adapt to for example the way Asal AND others actually play.
I love tough battles, but I want it to be fair to both players not favoring one over the other or favoring a certain behavior over another.
Am 100% behind Tarek Momen. I am aware of many squash enthusiasts who will NOT watch Asal, and other non-squashers I know also end up changing TV channels after seeing constant bickering on court. NOT GOOD for the game!!
I am one of them of changed channels
Moving directly to the T after striking the ball is one of the foulest “tactics” any player can use. Many years ago I was playing in a Division B State Championship. At that time we played with the 70+ green ball, which was considerably harder than the black “yellow dot.” My opponent consistently moved back from the strike to the T, directly, instead of moving to the back in sportsman-like rotational movement. Several times he “turned” on the ball if it passed him. The first “strategy” was blatantly illegal, the second was patently dangerous, since he would lose sight of where I was. After I took the first game, his behavior increased to the point of that I could not win playing fairly. I complained to the ref, who told me to shut up and play. He was either incompetent or was strongly favoring the local man. When I complained the second time, he told me that if I complain again, he will default me. I was seething. Loudly enough for the spectators to hear, I said “If next time I have a straight shot and he is on the T in front of me, I am going to drive the ball up his ass.” Don’t you know, a few minutes later he did his stunt again, the ball came of the back wall around him, with him on the T. I wound up with the most deliberate backhand over crank and hit the ball as hard as I could. The ball hit the dude in the crack of his ass and it STUCK! For a good 2 seconds. After an initial silent shock, the audience started laughing their heads off. I have the trophy, but by far more importantly, I have the memory of dealing with a jerk who gave the game a bad name. Many of you may not remember Hashim Khan’s training, but sportsmanship was huge with him. We even learned to check the follow up swing and kept it low as not to obstruct the opponent from getting to the ball. I don’t care what skills Asal has. I will not be watching any games he is in.
I do not watch nor pay for squash TV when Asal o Marwan play. As my little own personal protest.
The wheels have finally fallen off the Squash Wagon. A Virus has entered the Fray the Asal strain is Infectious.
Be prepared for much damage. It is stagnating and the Sport will suffer.Someone call a Doctor or Championship Squash as we know it is going to DIE.
I have heard it called gamesmanship or streetsmart. All just euphemisms for cheating.
Incredibly anything goes including:
Manufactured injury breaks
Unnecessary court cleaning
Not calling your ball down
That super series trophy is Asal’s but at what cost.
You can’t be a nice guy off the court (as el shorbagy claims of Asal) if that is how your treat the pros that share your passion for our sport.
I cry fowl and shame on you and all those that praise you.
I only pray that the gods of squash save us all and correct these injustices!
Ramy we miss you more than ever
Asal is a disaster
While I agree with people saying that Asal takes a direct line back to the T which results in the opponent to move around him or face the contact every time, I do not agree with Momen regarding this particular match.
He was the one most vocal and agitated and irritated from the get go. Asal was reasonably quiet, while Momen kept complaining and questioning decisions.
Even when the ref told him to stop talking otherwise there would be a code of conduct, he kept talking…and the next decision he was talking again and AGAIN got the code of conduct warning where he should have had a code of conduct.
I thought Asal wasn’t too bad in this game except for his movement, but it definitely wasn’t as bad as he was against Abouelghar or Coll in previous matches.
Momen needs to look at his own behavior in that match as well. (And it’s not just in this match, it seems like he is very angry on court)
I am a fan of Momen and his game, but he needs to get stronger mentally and deal with bad decisions or bad behavior of players better, as it’s clear that they’re getting to him in a bad way.
I hope he sorts that out and stays in the game for a few years longer and I also hope that Asal gets sorted out or sorts himself out as it’s not good for squash.
It’s one reason why I love the women’s game. WAY less BS like this, just pure squash (and great matches!)
Yes the women’s game is great with little blocking now that Massaro is gone
Most of the top 20 players in the world would disagree with you. And that some random no-name member of the general public somehow thinks her not knowing who Craig Laksota is makes a difference, literally makes me laugh out loud.