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Tuesday, December 6, 2022

Exclusive Interview: Mostafa Asal accuses rivals of using his reputation to con refs to win cheap points

RJ Mitchell
RJ Mitchellhttp://www.spitfiremediascotland.co.uk
RJ MITCHELL has been writing about squash for 24 years and has played the sport all his adult life. Former captain of the West of Scotland county team, he became a professional journalist and has written for the Airdrie & Coatbridge Advertiser, the Glasgow Evening Times, The Herald and The Scotsman. Mitchell has also become a regular contributor for the PSA World Tour website. He is also the author of the DS Thoroughgood crime fiction series based on his career as a Glasgow cop between 1989 and 2001.

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‘Squash should punish players with cards for simulation,’ says football fan Asal

Mostafa Asal is the biggest box office draw in squash. His on-court antics have frequently got him into trouble but the young Egyptian superstar has now claimed that rival players are trading on his reputation to con referees into giving cheap points against him.

Rows about refereeing standards have always been a major part of professional squash, but Asal has opened up a new can of worms with his astonishing comments. A keen football fan, Asal wants to see yellow cards issued for simulation in squash, just as they are in football.

Opinions on Asal split the squash world down the middle. Those who disapprove of his antics and over-the-top celebrations will claim that it’s payback time.

However, it’s not just Asal’s army of fans who feel he is being hard done by.

Asal is the most talked about player in squash and immortals Jonah Barrington, Geoff Hunt and Jahangir Khan have all tipped him to become the game’s next dominant No.1.

Now Barrington has come out in support of Asal after some recent on-court controversies and his comments have helped the Egyptian to rise from a deep depression following his disqualification from the U.S. Open for accidentally striking opponent Lucas Serme with the ball.

But let’s take a pause and place all this in context. After ending last season on a red-hot vein of form that saw him collect titles at El Gouna and the World Tour Finals, which pointed to the 2022-23 campaign being a coronation for the man who would be king, the season so far has gone nothing like to plan.

Mostafa Asal makes an astonishing movement to reach the ball against Marwan ElShorbagy in the final of the Grasshopper Cup (Picture by Nathalie Goossens)

Disappointing defeats in Qatar and the Egyptian Open, where Asal seemed strangely out of sorts, were followed by that disastrous incident in Philadelphia.

Another major factor causing him concern is the suspicion that some of Asal’s rivals are playing tricks to get referees on their side against him.

Asal is convinced that some contemporaries are starting to increasingly utilise the powerful movement of ‘The Raging Bull’, who stands tall at one metre 92cm (6ft 3in) and weighs 83kg, to paint a picture of obstruction, impediment and at times dangerous dangling limbs to manipulate referees into administering conduct strokes against him.

Now, in another big Squash Mad exclusive, Asal has admitted that his disqualification at the US Open was the worst moment of his life, and he reveals how he had become bored with squash and the antics of the opposition.

Yet it was then that a lone, strident voice boomed out of the wilderness to articulate everything that the world No.3 had despairingly been thinking but could not contemplate saying.

That voice and the kind words of support for Asal when he most needed it came from no less than the founding father of the modern game, the immortal Jonah Barrington.

Now Asal has given his reaction to Squash Mad in the form of an exclusive two-part interview.

The grateful Asal said: “Jonah’s article is the best one I have ever seen and it has revealed everything that is happening on the court and I just want to thank him for it. It really does mean the world.

Mostafa Asal dives for the ball against Mohamed ElShorbagy

“It was amazing, actually. Jonah is a legend and such an incredible athlete, and his honest review of what is happening just summed it up so well and when I read his column on the PSA website it made me feel that I am not fighting alone.

“To have a legend like Jonah Barrington saying these things helped me a huge amount mentally when I was low. The fact that he has seen that some players are creating situations and not playing the game as it should be is just great.

“I have tripped over legs many times and I didn’t say anything. It is about personality and fighting like a man on court and not faking injuries and crying out ‘Aaaaah’.

“The main problem for me is that there is no rule like in football on simulation. It’s like if you have Liverpool versus Chelsea and a player fakes it and dives, the ref knows that he is faking it and he gives him a yellow card.

“I think the other players are getting penalised by decisions where I get penalised by conduct strokes. If the referee is seeing a movement from me that is so bad then that is okay but if he sees this please give a decision but don’t give it as a conduct stroke.

“The way things have gone when I get a conduct stroke now in a match, mentally it is making me stronger and I use it to motivate myself to get the win.

“But the players right now – and I will not name anyone but I will say some are indeed Egyptian – then there is so much drama, so much noise, it is not squash as it should be.

“The sport is not separated by a net and there is always lots of interference. I have tripped and I have had cuts from falls, and of course I could fake all that but it is not my personality.

The 2022 Grasshopper Cup champions Nour El Sherbini and Mostafa Asal

“So, for me, I think there should be a rule on simulation, just like in football. If you are going to give a player a let because he (dishonestly) shouts ‘Mostafa blocked me, Mostafa’s leg tripped me,’ then why does he not get a code of conduct stroke against him?

“I think from reading his column that it is Jonah’s opinion that he is seeing players entering the court and their main focus is how they can get the referee on their side and it is only my opinion but I agree with that.

“They are saying ‘I can’t play squash against Mostafa’ and I will switch to another way to get him disturbed and get the win anyway. It is not good and it is not making the matches enjoyable.

“So for Jonah to say this means the world. I am over the moon with this article and I would also like to thank Geoff Hunt for some of his kind word he has said on Squash Mad. All of that has helped me through a very tough time.”

Now it is time for Asal to turn to the night he almost called it a day when his disqualification from the defence of his treasured U.S. Open title for striking Serme on the head with the ball brought him to his life’s nadir.

Again the 21-year-old is refreshingly candid in his comments which are so unlike some of the sanitised twaddle routinely peddled.

Asal reflected: “I wanted to finish everything in Egypt just to get out to the States and defend my title. I felt like I needed to defend the title so much because at the beginning of the season I hoped to make world No.1. But it didn’t happen for me and unfortunately the match (in the Egyptian Open) at the Pyramids with Ali (Farag) was terrible for me.

“So I needed a good U.S. Open so much. I put so much pressure on myself and then what happened with Lucas did (put more pressure on) and it was tough.

“The first thing I must say was that the main thing was the safety of Lucas and I made sure before I left the arena that he was OK and that after the tournament he was well, and it was great he was back playing in another tournament just a few days later.

A concerned Mostafa Asal stands over Lucas Serme after a shot down the middle of the court struck the Frenchman on the head in the U.S. Open

“On court when it happened it was a really difficult moment and not as simple as people may think. As I turned I saw him at the beginning but then I expected Lucas to hold his position or go to the side wall. But I don’t know if he panicked and then moved and bent down, and I did not expect that and of course it became a bad situation for both of us.

“For me I was 100% sure he would not go down. It was an unexpected movement for me. Lucas went into a different area, took a different body position and then of course I hit him and it was very worrying.

“I was 2-0 and 6-4 up and enjoying my squash again in that match and then that happened and it was really difficult.

“It was the toughest moment of my career and definitely the lowest I have felt.

“I had been having many downs anyway and to be down in that way was very difficult. It had been the first time in my life I was getting bored of squash and then the US Open happened and it was bad.

“It was a mess and I want to be nice and honest, but I have spoken with Lucas since the match and he is OK with it.

“But looking back at the way the season has begun for me, well at the beginning my fighting spirit was just not good enough.

“It was like I was targeting being world No.1 but there was just so much going on and I wasn’t into it. But now I have my focus back and winning the Grasshopper was very important in that.”

Next week: In part two of our explosive interview with the game’s biggest rising star, Mostafa Asal reveals how he plans to combat the conduct stroke issue, his new goal for the current season, and why winning the Grasshopper Cup was the best moment of his career – so far.

Pictures courtesy of PSA World Tour

Do YOU agree with Mostafa Asal? Squash Mad readers are invited to join the conversation on the home of intelligent debate by leaving their comments below.

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  1. Right , listen to me ,, I have played and watched squash at a high level for 40 years , I have seen Asal from his debut on tour and a few years in the juniors . He is an amazing player , an amazing athlete , but he is not an amazing person . He has been brought up to disrespect , use any tactics necessary to win , this has come from his younger years , his father , his so called entourage and his ability to live with the way he wins . He is unfortunately for Squash a bad Apple , he needs to change sport and join a boxing gym , this could straighten him out and teach him respect for his fellow opponents , I have many many contacts in squash and not one of them enjoys his matches , he is bad for squash tv , he is bad for squash , there is a lot of political correctness going on with this guy and it is wrong , Joey , His father and the psa need to man up stop accepting orders from above and say it how it is ! He is not a good man , the end .

  2. I agree with above comment and believe this kid is highly manipulative in his movement “tactics” and willingness to play on the “edge”. Rationalization is “ends justify the means”! Winning makes it all ok…not really. Tedious to watch his matches.
    As an example of another young phenom of a similar age, just look at how Carlos Alcaraz conducts himself on court. He has been trained and taught correctly. Juan Carlos Ferrero and the entire team (Carlito’s father included) have done it right. Mustafa & team should take a lesson, but of course they won’t.

  3. There’s a similar situation with Nick Kyrgios in tennis. Highly polarising and great for increasing viewer internet. Both super talented with attitudes that polities opinion. Power, McEnroe, Connors are other examples.

    I agree largely with Gene and Lobby except that I think polarising personalities like this a great for professional sport reliant in viewer numbers. It’s all about entertainment and you need contrast for that. Squash can get very bland.

    So let Asal play his role in this.

    I do find it funny his request for yellow cards for simulation. He needs to be careful what he wishes for. 😂

  4. Totally agree. I commented quite a few times about his “win at all costs” style of play. Most of Asal’s fans have to agree that before the youngster hit the stage, there were very few controversial matches. Now look at the latest trend, each of Asal’s matches are riddled with decisions, rightly or wrongly. Now Asal use this as a weapon to counter-attack. This is so wrong in many levels, the main one being sportmanship

  5. This kid is a disgrace to our slowly dying sport. Disappointed to read that Barrington vouches for him. Thankfully, most folks who are fairly new to the sport have no clue who Barrington is and he is not really that relevant in the sport right now. For “new squash fans” like my wife, watching an Asal match is in her own words: “Entertaining for WWE fans, for the rest of us, it is just painful to watch, so many interruptions due to Asals’ blocking that it is frustrating to watch as the other player is getting robbed” I agree with the other comment, tennis has a class act like Carlos Alcaraz who is a joy to watch for his skill, talent, athleticism and elegance. Squash has Asal, who is as charming and charismatic as Daniel Kollerer.

  6. Exactly. He needs to change sport. He just seems to not be able to grasp the concept of allowing his opponent a passage to the ball.

  7. It is almost predictable that whenever he manages open the court a bit, then he would always play a pressure shot and use his body to block his opponent’s path. Or the nasty “trailing leg” to add a hurdle to his opponent. Ahad Raza on Youtube makes an excellent slow-motion analysis of all the subtle but dirty tactics he uses.

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