No one has quite dominated the game of squash to the extent that the Egyptians did, in the most recent years. To make sense of the dominance of the Egyptians over the game - as of 2013, 5 of the top 10 squash players in the world were Egyptian; the greatest ever squash player in the history of the game is widely considered to be an Egyptian by the name of Ramy Ashour; as of 2013 the u-19 men's title of the British Junior Open (the most highly regarded junior squash tournament in the world) has been won only by Egyptians since 2006; and in the women's game of the British Junior Open, 13 of the last 15 winners of the u-15 category have been won by Egyptians. Why is this so, and what led to this phenomenon exactly? We endeavoured to find out and this article is the fruit of such efforts.
Culture of young-old elite mingling
There is phenomenon hugely significant in contributing to this Egyptian squash dominance, that is very unique to Egypt. It is this culture of easy mingling between established professionals and aspiring professionals within the Egyptian squash scene. For example, the then under-13 British Open champion of 2013 practises regularly with Ramy Ashour. In fact, such culture of intergenerational easy collaboration is being boosted by laws governing the country's squash scene. The most notable and significant of such is that which makes it law for contracts (professional squash players in Egypt sign on to contracts with clubs where they train and practice) between clubs and professional squash players to make it a rule within such contracts to play with the junior players.
A positive outcome of a dictatorship
When a dictator becomes so closely associated with the nation, the thing he loves would naturally also be the love of the nation. What no doubt drove the popularity of squash up was the love of squash by former dictator Hosni Mubarak and the extent to which he took in expanding squash's place in the nation. Mubarak attended ceremonies for new squash centers and lent his prestige to Egyptian tournaments like the Hurghada, which draws the world’s best men and women who played the game. An even bigger event was the Al-Ahram International, inaugurated in 1996 (another personal project of Mubarak's) and held against the backdrop of the Pyramids. In the first year of the tournament, a young Egyptian prodigy, Ahmed Barada, made a wonder run to the finals, where he fell to Jansher Khan (then reigning world number one). The level of endorsement undertaken by Mubarak could be seen when he personally congratulated Barada on his showing, and two years later Barada won the tournament.
Long culture of squash excellence
Despite Egypt hardly producing any international champions between the 1950s and the 1990s, as the repeated wars and domestic turmoil during that period made it difficult for the country’s best players to travel for tournaments from Egypt, the nation has had a strong tradition of squash excellence. The sport’s first great international champion was (you guess it) Egyptian. He was F. D. Amr Bey, an Egyptian diplomat who started playing while stationed in England. He won six consecutive British Open championships—then the sport’s biggest international competition—in the 1930s. His success inspired then ball boys from Egypt, one of whom, Mahmoud El Karim, racked up four of his own British Open championships in the 1940s.
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