Strewth! Aussie MPs get on court as World Squash Day serves up a treat on and off court
By HOWARD HARDING – Squash Mad International Correspondent
World Squash Day 2019 attracted thousands of new players as clubs across the planet opened their doors to showcase the sport on Saturday (October 12). A social media blitz and widespread TV coverage raised the profile of the sport, and the game received a massive endorsement with a special event at the Australian Parliament building.
Enterprising clubs on every continent proudly cleaned their courts, printed banners, made T-shirts, planned open days and laid on an amazing array of cakes, buffets and barbecues to welcome newcomers to the game.
Many clubs and federations helped to hit the headlines by arranging media coverage with TV channels, radio stations and newspapers.
Social media was awash with scenes of clubs promoting the joys of playing one of the healthiest games on the planet.
Club enthusiasts were joined by many of the world’s leading professionals, and some of the game’s greatest legends, who happily returned to their roots to help out on court.
In Australia, nearly 50 clubs took part and the 1981 women’s world champion Rhonda Thorne-Clayton was honoured for her achievements and contribution to the game after acting as World Squash Day ambassador for the Daisy Hill club in Logan City, between Brisbane and Gold Coast.
Club owner Bradley Hindle, who competed on the PSA Tour for many years and represented Malta in the Commonwealth Games, said: “Rhonda was a wonderful World Squash Day Ambassador for Daisy Hill and Logan City. It was an absolute joy to honour her achievements and services to squash with a beautiful canvas print at a reception at the club.
“A copy of that print will now hang on our Legacy Wall alongside all the other great Queensland squash players.”
Rhonda (pictured above with Hindle) told the crowd of more than 100 well-wishers: “Squash is the greatest game in the world. It can be played by everybody, whatever their age. It was wonderful to see all nine courts at Daisy Hill busy with juniors on World Squash Day.”
Pakistan legends Jansher Khan and Qamar Zaman, both former world number ones, helped to promote the project with a special one-game challenge match before going on court with a large group of juniors at the PAF Hashim Khan Squash Centre in Peshawar. The wily Zaman, aged 68, showed he had lost none of his flair by beating the eight-times world champion, 18 years his junior, 11-9.
The city of Peshawar has produced seven world champions, including Azam Khan, Hashim Khan, Roshan Khan, Mohibullah Khan, Qamar Zaman, Jahangir Khan and Jansher Khan.
Jahangir, who won the British Open ten years in a row, supported a massive event promoted by the Punjab Squash Association in Lahore.
Maria Toorpakai Wazir, who famously fled Pakistan to avoid persecution for playing squash as a child, returned home to hold a coaching session for girls, which showed how times and cultures are evolving in many parts of the world where women have suffered human rights abuses.
She said: “We distributed sports equipment and squash rackets among girls in Peshawar. We were pleased to welcome a few children with disabilities. Every girl, every child should feel included, encouraged and supported.”
She then tweeted support for the World Squash Day event held in Iran, which also showed a large number of females taking to the court.
Egypt is proudly leading the way with support for female athletes in the Muslim world.
The Black Ball Sporting Club, host of two major PSA events in New Cairo, attracted TV coverage and had a visit from the Minister for Youth and Sport when they held a World Squash Day event to promote the game with dozens of juniors in attendance (see below).
Squash Director Ashraf Hanafi said: “It was a fantastic day and we recruited more than 200 new junior members, many of them from local schools. The TV coverage was broadcast at a peak time and was seen by millions of people on Egypt’s main TV sports programme.”
At the other end of the continent, the World Squash Day event at Camps Bay Squash Club in South Africa featured a game called Street Racket designed to offer a cheap introduction to racket sports with no courts required.
Camps Bay is the home club to former pros Stuart Hailstone, Trevor Wilkinson, Gunner Way, Grant Isaacs, Craig Wapnick and Mark Allen.
In India, former national champion Ritwik Bhattacharya arranged three World Squash Day events, supported by former Trinity College player Sachika Balvani. Two were held at military bases and one staged at his Start Academy headquarters near Mumbai, which provides squash training for tribal children.
In England, three-times world champion Nick Matthew spearheaded a successful campaign by England Squash to attract at least 5,000 new players on World Squash Day.
Matthew’s home club of Hallamshire in Sheffield held a week-long campaign as Matthew, Declan James and women’s world No.7 Sarah-Jane Perry all appeared in promotional videos to launch the campaign.
Matthew also appeared in a live interview on the popular Zoe Ball Breakfast Show on BBC Radio 2 in the UK.
A total of 154 clubs registered with the project and, in return for uploading data to a special App, received cash funding and equipment bags including 18 rackets from leading squash brand Karakal.
Matthew said: “The end goal for the project, with the help of England Squash and support from so many clubs and national federations, was the feel-good factor that was felt around the world.
“As we always say, the key is to introduce or reinvigorate people both young and old, male or female, able bodied or not, because once they try squash it is so addictive and you want more.”
British number one Joel Makin, the current world No.12, popped in to support his hometown Hirwaun club near Aberdare in Wales.
Declan James and his manager Daryl Selby, who are currently ranked 20 and 17 in the world and have both held the England number one position this season, also took to the court. James joined the juniors at Nottingham Squash Club, while Selby led his family’s Off The Wall session in Essex.
World Squash Day was celebrated in America with events that coincided with the finals of the US Open, with a number of clubs concluding their day’s events by watching the two finals live on SquashTV.
At a special luncheon in Philadelphia before the finals, US Squash inducted Ginny Akabane and Bunny Vosters into the United States Squash Hall of Fame.
Scotland’s Greg Lobban and New Zealand’s Campbell Grayson joined renowned English coach Nick Taylor at his Infinitum Academy in Boston, Massachusetts, as they coached a large group of juniors before taking to the court for an exhibition match.
Back home in Scotland, Lobban’s father Alan took part in a 24-hour marathon at the Inverness Tennis and Squash Club to raise funds for the Highlands Hospice.
The Squashinhos project in Brazil took to the courts to provide exercise and education in a safe environment for children in Rio de Janeiro.
The campaign’s leader, English coach Danny Lee, held a timed tournament fund-raiser at the St George’s Hill Club in Weybridge, England.
He has launched a Just Giving page to raise funds for the project and said: “Squashinhos is a sports and educational development project which helps suffering children from communities in Rio de Janeiro. Three times a week they receive English and squash lessons.
“The aim is to create a healthy learning environment for these children, opening their eyes to another world away from drugs and weapons.”
There was a spirit of revival in Denmark, where experienced tournament promoter Kim Frederiksen chose World Squash Day to launch a new club in the quaintly named town of Middelfart.
He said: “We just have two courts right now, but we want to dream big to grow this wonderful game.”
In Asia, record eight-times world champion Nicol David tweeted her support for a well-supported nationwide programme set up by the Squash Rackets Association of Malaysia.
World Squash Day had an extra event in Australia. Peta Murphy, a squash-loving MP in the constituency of Dunkley, near Melbourne, hosted an open day at the Australian Parliament courts in Canberra and got on court for a fun hit with Labor Party leader Anthony Albanese.
And, to round things off, the PSA Foundation will be holding a World Squash Day Auction of memorabilia to raise funds for squash-related causes. Many star names signed some WSD shirts at major early-season events in Nantes and San Francisco and others have donated rackets and shirts to raise extra funds.
World Squash Day organiser Alan Thatcher, editor and publisher of Squash Mad and an experienced tournament promoter, was delighted with the global response to the event this year.
He said: “It was great to see so much energy for the sport all over the planet. It was wonderful to see legends of the game joining current professionals to support events in so many different places.
“One of the unexpected joys of World Squash Day is the sharing of knowledge and great ideas. Thanks to social media, everyone wants to know about the glow squash games that were played on the Fluoro court at the Squash Logic club in Melton, Australia.
“And the concept of Street Racket, which was on show in South Africa, opens up all kinds of opportunities for low-cost games which can be held in parks and school playgrounds without the need for walls.
“England Squash led the way with their brilliantly-delivered development project, and Chief Executive Keir Worth is happy to share the details of the concept with other nations.
“Ultimately, that’s the best part of World Squash Day, sharing the fun and helping others in the process.”
World Squash Federation President Jacques Fontaine summed up the event, saying: “World Squash Day has very well illustrated two key facets of our sport.
“It has been heartening to see such overwhelming evidence of enthusiasm for our sport all over the globe and we are grateful for all the clubs, coaches and top players who have helped make it such a special event on the squash calendar each year.
“This weekend has seen a wonderful coming together at facilities on all continents, introducing new players, and those already in love with squash having fun.
“Squash is a sport for all – for all the people, and for all the world. We are both inclusive and global.
“The WSF thanks all the tireless people at clubs who have made the arrangements, everybody who has participated, and Alan Thatcher who has coordinated arrangements,” concluded Fontaine.
A map showing all of the clubs and federations who registered to take part in World Squash Day events can be found here:
The date for World Squash Day 2020 has been confirmed as Saturday October 10th. Thatcher added: “It’s easy to remember: 10/10/20. I hope clubs and federations will put that in their tournament diaries immediately!”
World Squash Day 2020: Saturday October 10th (10/10/20)
Pictures courtesy of World Squash Day