Hit by lack of tournaments, Pak squash faces battle for survival

Terror fallout

Hit by lack of tournaments, Pak squash faces battle for survival

 Ever since the 2009 attack by gunmen on the Sri Lankan cricket team in Lahore, Pakistan has become a no-go zone for many international sporting events. While the biggest sufferer from that ghastly incident is cricket, the most popular sport there, one sport that has taken a severe beating is squash.

The Pakistan Squash Federation has not being able to host any PSA events and with sponsors too seemingly washing their hands off, the sport has been on a terminal decline — much like hockey in India with just moments of fleeting success.

A sport that they dominated with an iron fist with the likes of Jahangir Khan, Jansher Khan, Azam Khan, Roshan Khan, Mo Khan and Qamar Zaman winning titles by the handful, Pakistan are struggling to make their presence felt now. Their highest rated men’s player is Nasir Iqbal at 35, while the situation among women is bleak with Maria Toorpakai Wazir placed 50.

“(The downfall) is not because there is a dip in talent or players are not fit enough,” Nasir told Deccan Herald before sealing his spot in the final of the men’s singles competition at the South Asian Games. “Because of the prevalent security situation in the country, we are not able to host PSA tournaments. We are not getting the exposure that we need. Earlier we used to host a lot of tournaments and the Pakistan Open saw a lot of players from other countries coming and competing. There were sponsors, which is essential for any sport to survive.

“Nether the federation nor the players are getting any sponsors. Despite the stiff challenge, the federation has been working extremely hard to support us. The federation is spending from their pocket to ensure we go abroad and compete in at least a few events. We hope to win some titles and attract some sponsors,” added the 2007 British Open Junior (Under-13) champion.

Grim situation

Nasir opined that unless the country gets to stage PSA events or they win more titles, the situation is going to be grim.

“Squash is such an event that you need to play at least two international tournaments in a month to keep yourself tuned. Squash is also an individual sport which means we players need to organise our travel, accommodation etc. For all that, we need sponsors. It’s extremely difficult situation we are in now. I’m World No 35 but I’m still poor,” he quipped.

Nasir and his team-mate Farhan Zaman will get a chance to restore a semblance of pride to the sport back home when they clash with each other in the final on Sunday.

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