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.
Pictures courtesy of PSA