ISLAMABAD - Pakistan Squash Federation (PSF) honorary secretary Group Captain Amir Nawaz Tuesday termed Pakistan team’s chances in the upcoming South Asian Games as highly bright saying the will fight for the gold against hosts India.

Talking to The Nation, Amir said: “The male players’ trials are currently underway at Mushaf Mir Squash Complex. We have invited top eight players for the trials. Nasir Iqbal, Danish Atlas, Tayyab Aslam and Asim Khan have joined the team, while Farhan Zaman travelled all the way from the US to participate in the trials.”

To a query about notable absence of top player Farhan Mehboob, Amir replied: “We time and again requested Farhan to attend the training camp, but he declined. I personally went to Peshawar to meet his father Mehboob Khan but despite assurances given to me, Farhan turned his back at the eleventh hour. Farhan is not only destroying his career, but also damaging Pakistan’s cause of winning international medals. We have also extended invitation to Shahjehan Khan, based in USA, but he also didn’t turn up for the trials.”

When asked about females players’ selection criteria and who are invited for the second round of trials, Amir said: “Maria Toor Pakai would most likely to join the squad in India, while other players Muqaddas Ashraf, Riffat Khan, Sadia Gul, Sammer Anjum, Zoya Khalid and Saima Shoukat will appear in the trials on December 19 at the same venue.”

When asked about why trials were conducted when the male team for World Team Championship was previously selected as per their recent performances, Amir said: “We wanted to give fair chance to each and every player. Although we could have easily given exemption to Nasir Iqbal and Farhan Zaman, yet we decided against it and instead conducted three-day trial matches. We are confident enough top players would prevail in the trial matches and we would be able to select a highly competitive four-member team for the team event in the SAF Games. We know Indians are strong favourites for gold medal, but we will pose serious threats and main hurdle in their path to gold. I am confident enough females will at least play the semifinals and finish on podium.”

Amir said realistically Indian girls were way ahead in world rankings. “If we manage to win some kind of a silverware, it will be more than welcomes. We have provided females extraordinary training alongside male players under coach Faheem Gul, who will accompany Pakistan squad as manager in the SAF Games. The players will leave for Karachi to participate in the prestigious one million prize money DG Rangers Championship starting from December 25, while after that, Nasir will appear in two PSA events and Danish will feature in Qatar event while Farhan Zaman will go to USA to participate in different PSA events. The team will assemble in February for training prior to their departure for the SAF Games.”

He said that Israr Ahmed, Kashif Asif, Abbas Shoukat, Mansoor Zaman Junior, Aoun Abbas, Mehran Javed along with others will depart to USA today (Wednesday) to participate in the US Open Junior Championship. “We will bear the expenses of top three junior players, while some of them will get sponsorship from SNGPL and rest of the players will bear their own expenses. Israr will join Pakistan juniors in England for the British Junior Championship. We have spent a huge amount of money on players and sent them for the PSA events around the globe. We will reimburse Farhan Zaman money, he has paid for travelling from the USA.”

To a query regarding status of World Team Championship, Amir said: “It is our top most priority, whenever the dates will be given by the World Squash Federation (WSF), we will send our best available team. Our doors are always open for players like Aamir Atlas, Farhan Mehboob and others.

They should come and join the training camp. It is my promise I will go out of my skin and will not hesitate in providing best facilities and PSA events to all these players, but make it clear, nobody can blackmail the federation and no one can even think about forcing us to melt down under unwanted pressure. We are ready to provide every facility unconditionally, so they must put the country ahead of personal ambitions,” Amir concluded.