Ahead of the 2016 El Gouna International Squash Open, to be held on Thursday 21 April, Daily News Egypt interviewed Omar Mosaad, who is ranked fourth internationally.
Mosaad was the runner-up in the 2015 PSA Men’s World Squash Championship, and won the 2016 National Squash Championship.
When did your squash career begin?
I started playing squash when I was around seven-years-old. Prior to squash, I had my sights set on swimming and was practicing to be a member of the national swimming team. In order to be selected, I had to pass five stages. I only managed to pass four, and failed three times to pass the fifth.
I was young, and gave up in order to try something different. At the time, the Al-Ahram Squash Open Championship was being held, where famous Egyptian squash players were participating, including Ahmed Barada and Amr Shabana.
I started playing squash at Maadi Sporting Club. At the age of 17, I moved to Wadi Degla Club, where I stayed for five years. Afterwards, I moved to Heliopolis Sporting Club.
How did the Al-Ahram Squash Open Championship inspire you to start playing squash?
I think it did not only inspire me, but it inspired the majority of Egyptian squash players from my generation, including Ramy Ashour, Mohamed El-Shorbagy, Raneem El-Welily, and Omneya Abdel Kawy.
The Al-Ahram Squash Open was among the most important international and annual squash championships. At the time, it caught the attention of media from around the world.
Which squash players inspired you?
Ahmed Barada inspired me a great deal, as he did many other players. When you hear his name, automatically squash comes to your mind. Barada’s results in squash compared to the current squash results of Egyptian players are not that strong, but at the time, his results were excellent.
After Barada, I would name Amr Shabana, who won four world championships in 2003, 2005, 2007, and 2009.
Which players do you like to play against?
Nick Matthew, Mohamed Shorbagy, and Ramy Ashour, he really puts a lot of spirit into the match. Tarek Momen, who is very quick in his performance. French player Grégory Gaultier, who is really a challenge to beat.
When did you become a member of the Professional Squash Association (PSA)?
I have been a member since 2005, which means I have been a member for 11 years. I am now ranked number 4 in the international squash rankings.
Ramy Ashour has not participated in many championships. How did he reach such a high international ranking in the PSA?
When Ramy Ashour participates in a championship, he displays a high-quality performance and manages to win really important championships, including the 2015 El Gouna International Squash Open Championship and the 2014 PSA Men’s World Squash Championship held in Qatar.
How has squash developed in Egypt and abroad since the time of Ahmed Barada?
About 20 or 30 years ago, there were no glass courts. Squash has had many changes from its form in the 1990s. The paddles being used are different in shape and weight, the way scores are calculated, the way players perform, and the speed of the matches, all of this changed. The score of the game also changed. Instead of being out of 15, it is now out of 11.
The length of matches could be shorter, but players now use the extra time to perform better, since the score count has decreased. Changes are continuous in the sport and the game, and new laws are introduced regularly.
Why is squash not an Olympic sport?
I am not happy about this, as Egypt has many squash champions and the country is so developed in the sport. If it were an Olympic sport, we would have the chance of winning many medals.
Is it true that squash is not included in the Olympics for ethical reasons, since it was invented in prisons?
No, there are a few reasons. First, squash is a subjective game. For example, the same ball (shot/throw) could be calculated in more than one way. Gymnastics could also be considered as a subjective sport; however, the situation for both sports is not the same, as, for example, if a gymnast makes a certain error, he may lose a point.
Second, squash is still not internationally famous. For example, it is not common in Russia and China; however, it has begun to gain popularity in Hong Kong.
What makes tennis, which is an Olympic sport, more famous than squash?
I personally believe squash could enter the Olympics if it received more attention on television. People previously did not know about tennis, but began to learn about it through television and their curiosity increased.
How is the exposure of squash on Egyptian television?
Egyptian television provides good coverage of squash championships, but they have to focus more on the players, as they do with the football players.
What do you think would help squash’s chances of being included in the Olympics?
One thing that would help squash’s chances of being included in the Olympics would be changing the location of the PSA’s headquarters. Instead of being in the UK, it should be relocated to the US. The US has a stronger media when it comes to sports.
What kind of financial support you receive from the Egyptian Squash Association (ESA)?
Unfortunately, it does not amount to much. It does not exceed 10% to 15% of our total expenditures.
How do squash players in Egypt cover their expenses?
We have to win championships in order to cover our expenses. However, keep in mind that the player may suffer an injury, like Ramy Ashour, who couldn’t play for six months. Also, squash players generally retire around the age of 35. After retiring from playing the sport, players usually become trainers or work in another position related to squash.
Are there other issues, other than financial, with the ESA?
Egypt has a good reputation in the field of squash, but still, we are not fully recognised. For example, I was the runner-up in the 2015 PSA Men’s World Squash Championship, and Tarek Momen reached the semifinals of this tournament.
A world championship is very important for the sport, it is like the World Cup in football. Unfortunately, the ESA has not honoured us for this victory. They have not even sent a congratulatory letter to our club.
Also, the ESA should increase its communication with the media. For my victory in the world championship, a small piece of news was published, I believe it was in Al-Ahram. Despite this championship’s importance, it did not receive as much attention in the press as, for example, football matches.
I just would like to spread the concept that squash for us is our livelihood and career, and not just a hobby.
It has been rumoured that some Egyptian squash players are using the sport to obtain scholarships abroad. Is there any validity to this?
Ali Farag lives in the US and Mohamed El-Shorbagy lives in the UK. Both still play squash and claim victories in the sport in Egypt. This is also a way for Egyptian squash players to receive financial aid to help them develop in the sport.
The young squash generation in Egypt needs inspiration, as Barada and Shabana inspired me and my generation in the sport.
What are your current career goals?
I am working hard to reach the top ranking internationally and to win the 2016 PSA Men’s World Squash Championship The championship will be held this year in Wadi Degla Club, and the competition is expected to be so strong.
I could advance to third place, if I achieve good results at the El Gouna tournament.
Should the media focus more on squash players’ personal experiences?
Yes, the media should give more attention to the players. I believe that each and every player, not only in squash, has a special story to tell. For starters, Ramy Ashour, who is ranked the fifth internationally, and has suffered many injuries but still maintains an excellent performance and achieves great victories.
Can you tell us about your special story?
My mother and sister died about a year ago, at a time when I was ranked 10th internationally. The tragedy of losing my mother and sister affected my concentration, and I began losing matches. That time was a real challenge for me. Three months later, I reached the finals in the 2015 US Squash Open. A month later, I won second place in the 2015 PSA Men’s World Squash Championship. I played other championships, but these two were the most significant ones. I jumped from ranking 10th to being ranked fourth internationally.
What is the importance of the El Gouna championship to you?
After the world championship, this tournament is one of the most important international squash tournaments in the world. El Gouna’s tournament is considered as the last championship in the season 2015/2016, and it will include the top 40 or 50 world champions. The competition will be strong, and this is a positive point to improve my performance.
El Gouna also serves as a qualifier for the Dubai Squash Open, which will be held in May. Dubai’s tournament is important, as it will include only eight of squash’s best performing players.
I am scheduled for the first match and will compete against Australia’s Cameron Pilley. The winner will play against France’s Mathieu Castagnet. The winner of that match will qualify for the quarterfinals, which include Colombia’s Miguel Angel and India’s Saurav Ghosal.
You are not playing against any Egyptian players?
If I reach the semi-finals, I will play against Mohamed El-Shorbagy. If I am lucky enough to reach the finals, I may have a chance to compete against Ramy Ashour.
What are the expected results?
After Matthew’s had to withdraw from the tournament due to an injury, I am expected to take third place. I expect to at least reach the semi-finals, but of course I will do my best to achieve better.