ISLAMABAD - The 2016 proved to be relatively a better year for Pakistan squash as Pakistani players managed to bring laurels to the country. Pakistan defended Asian Team Squash Championship title in Hong Kong, won the gold medal in the 12th South Asian Games held in India, won the prestigious World Junior Team squash title in Poland and Farhan Mehboob won the Chief of Air Staff International Squash Championship in Islamabad.

But there were lows as well as Pakistan’s top squash player Nasir Iqbal was left in the cold by the Pakistan Squash Federation. After winning the gold medal in South Asian Games in singles event beating compatriot Farhan Zaman in the final, Nasir fell prey to Indian trap. Nasir is facing lengthy unofficial ban for using banned substance as WSF and Wada is yet to announce the ban. But Nasir was stopped from playing even exhibition matches since February 2016. He was world number 35 at that time but no one came to his rescue and he was left high and dry. Melting under pressure the federation decided against sending players to defend Asian Junior Individual Squash title, which was under Pakistani players’ dominance for the past six years or so.

Federation made tall claims regarding providing over the moon facilities, conducting long training camps and getting satisfactory results from Pakistan National Squash Academy (PNSA) contrary to the ground realities. The PSF failed to produce even a single player from the so-called state of the art academy and all the advisements of certain individuals and team were due to outstanding performances due to players own hard work. The federation failed to hire a full-time coach for the past 2 years or so and hired part-timers or showered countless blessings on blue-eyed persons. M Yasin was hired on temporary basis just to appease few certain individuals. This gentleman can’t even stand in the court due to his age and can’t hold racket properly, but reasons best known to the PSF, he enjoyed the limelight.

The federation also suffered huge humiliation at international level, when Senior Vice President Air Vice Marshal (R) Syed Razi Nawab badly lost World Squash Federation vice president elections. PNSA was limited to only near and dear ones as federation never bothered to inform about the criteria of selection of players for the academy. Only a handful of players were invited for training and females were completely ignored in 2016. Not a single major event was held for the ladies and they were also not sent for Asian Team Championship despite having trials. The sources had revealed to this scribe that females were deprived from participation in the championship just because of a powerful so-called super Mario coach, who was a big flop in his tenures with federation and was a super flop in the USA as well. PSF President Air Chief Marshal Sohail Aman had promised to give same importance to female players, which male players enjoy. But he completely relied on SVP and Secretary. Rather than banking on these two gentlemen, he should use his own sources to get the real picture as number of players left Pakistan just because of step-motherly treatment rendered to them. But federation’s high-ups were sleeping and least bothered about ground realities and just kept on praising themselves and pose as they had won the world title. How long Farhan Mehboob and Farhan Zaman would carry the burden of entire nation’s hopes to win laurels for the country? Why federation is keeping mum on working on bringing back players like Aamir Atlas, Danish Atlas and not fighting for Nasir Iqbal’s case? The federation officials must keep their ego aside and contact players who had turn their back son country or else squash golden days would only be remembered in the history books.

Some of the positives of the year were the winning of silver medal by Maria Toor and bronze by Sadia Gul in women event in 12th South Asian Games while Pakistan men and women teams grabbed silver medals in the team event of championship. 18th Asian Squash Team Championship was held at Chinese Taipei where Pakistani team displayed a remarkable performance throughout the championship, although the team was deprived of the top player Nasir Iqbal. Pakistani players still created major upsets against higher world ranked players of various teams and won the gold medal, beating Hong Kong in the final.

Pakistan won the WSF Men’s World Junior Team Championship held at Poland from 6 to 16th August as they dethrone top seeds Egypt in the final after a gap of 8 years. Israr Ahmed won bronze medal in the Individual event.

Time and precious money was wasted on Pakistan-Egypt squash series which Pakistan lost 3-2. That huge amount could have been utilised on squash promotion and players should have been sent to PSA events rather than wasting on useless exercise. Now dumped ASB 4-Glass Wall portable squash court was installed at PAF Museum Karachi. A huge amount was wasted on purchase of that white-elephant. The amount should have been utilised on players’ welfare as country already had enough squash courts.

Four $25,000 PSA tournaments were held in Pakistan. Two were won by the Egyptians. Farhan Mehboob gave some joy to long suffering local fans by winning the CAS International Squash Championship in November. It is high time federation must pay heed to ground realities and spent heavily on players rather than on their blue-eyed persons. Permanent coach is need of the hour and conspirators, who always put their personal interests ahead over country’s interests, should be kicked out. Hiring top class coaches, working on grassroots level and reviving female squash as per PSA requirements should be the top priorities of the PSF in the coming year. Pakistan is blessed with immense amount of talent in female squash. Sammar Anjum, Sadia Gul, Riffat Khan, Madina sisters, Amna Latif are not any lesser than any top player but they need PSA events to improve their rankings and also same coaching/training facilities which males are enjoying. Or else the federation must declare that females are not welcome for playing squash. Israr, Asim, Abbas Shoukat and Ahsan Ayaz are the future of Pakistan squash. The federation must focus on these young guns to stand any realistic chances of doing well at international circuit. It is hoped that federation would pay heed to positive suggestions and act in the best interest of squash and country. Jansher Khan had time and again requested PSF president to show the doors to incompetent persons and bring those who really care about squash and country. He is a living legend and his words should not be ignored that easy.