ISLAMABAD             -      Pakistani junior team suffered huge setback in their pursuit of winning the British Junior Open Squash Championship 2019 as U-19 category dark horse Uzair Shoukat’s England visa was not issued despite filing the application well before time.

Talking to The Nation on Tuesday, Pakistan Squash Federation (PSF) Secretary Group Captain Tahir Sultan confirmed that visa of Uzair Shoukat is yet to be received and now it would be impossible to send him for the event timely. “The championship is commencing tomorrow (January 2, 2020), while we got the visas of Saifullah Tareen in U-13 and Ashab Irfan in U-17 but these are also too late for them to participate in the mega event, which is a huge setback for our players and off course the federation, as huge amount was invested on their training, airfares, hotels booking and visa fees, but all is wasted now. I must appreciate the efforts of British High Commission, who remained very helpful throughout the process, but due to holidays, the things got late and we couldn’t get Uzair’s visa.”

Tahir said they have very talented players in UK, who have guts to perform well in the mega event and lift the titles in different categories. “The basic aim of sending players along with coach three days early was to provide them with the opportunity to adjust with the conditions and train hard well before the event. We have very talented pool of players in U-15 category including national champion M Ammad and Hamza. It is every possibility that they may clash in the final. If one of them doesn’t win the title in U-15 category, it will be a huge setback for them and the country,” Tahir concluded.

Talking to The Nation from Birmingham, Pakistan junior team manager Hussain Odhwani said: “We didn’t take a single day rest and went directly to the Edgbaston Priory Club, Birmingham, where the boys started training at 7am and trained for more than two hours under the watchful eyes of coach Asif Khan, while Air Commodore (R) Aftab Saddiq Qureshi was also present there.

“They have around two hours training session in the courts. Then they have one-hour session in the gym and also performed cool down exercise. We have witnessed other players too, who arrived with huge reputation and are already given favourites tag due to their vast experience, but our boys have great determination and eagerness to excel and surprise the top seeds,” he asserted.

“The pressure will be very much on top ranked players. It will be blessing in disguise for our players, who are not amongst the favourites.

They will have no extra pressure and if they display even 75 percent of what they are showing in the training sessions, I can claim that they will emerge as title winners.

“The five-day event will be played on three venues while round-up matches will be played on two centres and the finals will be held at University of Birmingham. We are hopeful of winning titles in U-15 and U-17 categories, as both Hamza and Noor Zaman are super fit and eager to excel. Rest of our players are also confident of producing the best results,” Odhwani concluded.