Saudi Arabian squash supremo expects sport to grow in the Kingdom

Nour El-Sherwin and Nouran Gohar (R) of Egypt are two of the biggest names in female squash, players who Al-Turki hopes will inspire Saudi youth. (AFP)
Updated 18 October 2018

Saudi Arabian squash supremo expects sport to grow in the Kingdom

  • Ziad Al-Turki, the Saudi Squash Federation President and PSA Chairman, wants more squash in the Kingdom
  • He wants to stimulate the growth of the game in Saudi Arabia and give local players the chance to climb up the world rankings

The Professional Squash Association (PSA) chief plans to build on the success of staging the first ever professional women’s squash tournament in Saudi Arabia by making a men’s and women’s tournament in the Kingdom a permanent fixture in the squash calendar.
Ziad Al-Turki, the Saudi Squash Federation President and PSA Chairman, collaborated with the General Sports Authority and Princess Reema bint Bandar to stage the landmark event at Princess Nora bint Abdul Rahman University in January, which featured 32 international players.
Eight-time world champion Nicol David hailed the tournament as a historic moment — and Al-Turki revealed plans are underway to make the Kingdom a regular stop on the hectic World Tour.
“It will happen again,” he said. “We are looking at either the end of this year or again in January. Hopefully it will be an annual event and hopefully we can bring back a men’s event. The PSA World Tour is full this year but we are going to find a slot probably for 2019 and then hopefully do a men’s and woman’s tournament back-to-back.”
The Kingdom last hosted a men’s event in 2010 when Nick Matthew won the Men’s World Championship, but Al-Turki now has the appetite to bring back the game’s top male players to Saudi Arabia after seeing the transformative effect the women’s game in January has had.
“Princess Noura University and King Saud University are contacting us telling us they want us to bring in trainers so they can host an amateur tournament between each other,” said Al-Turki. “We are getting contacted by girls who want to start participating in squash — that’s the ultimate goal. In that sense, it was a great success.”
Al-Turki said he will learn the lessons of the January tournament when staging future events.
“It took a lot of administrative work to get it approved – it didn’t happen overnight,” he said. “I started this when Prince Abdullah was at the helm and then it got another push when Princess Reema was first appointed. It was a few years in the making. 

“We were under certain constraints and we couldn’t go out and advertise it as much to try and get more spectators. I would have loved for it to be at one of the women’s universities as it would have drawn a bigger attendance.”
Al-Turki does not just want to make the Kingdom a money-spinning opportunity for the world’s top players. He wants to stimulate the growth of the game in Saudi Arabia and give local players the chance to climb up the world rankings — and not just have to rely on wildcard entries.
“We are not just looking at big events — we are looking at doing smaller events to give the guys a chance to participate and get some points,” he said.
“Nada Abu Alnaja, for example, has become a professional player because she had to get a wildcard (for entry to the Saudi Women’s Masters). We are looking to build on the grassroots and bringing in top players for tournaments gives the grassroots a push.”
That will be music to the ears for the likes of rookies Mohammad Almwled, Abdulmajeed Boureggah and Abdulelah Boureggah. Their inexperience of playing competitive squash was exposed when they represented Saudi Arabia at the World Team Squash Championship in India in July. It was the first time a team from the Arab state had competed in the event and they finished last. Al-Turki is seeing signs of a revival of the game in the Kingdom and is excited about two young prospects.
“We did have quite a few young, aspiring players back in 2008-2009 but it fizzled out a bit,” he said. “Now it’s picking up again. We have two juniors who I am sponsoring and sending to international tournaments, they are 11 and 12. We had a third place finish at a junior tournament in Europe, so we’ve got high hopes for them. They are competing in the Kingdom and in GCC tournaments. The grandfather of squash in Saudi Arabia (Samer Al-Khateeb) has kind of adopted them and I pay their expenses. They are very eager, so the future could be bright with those two.”

Underdogs with bite and sloppy South Korea: What we learned from the Asian Cup second round

Updated 23 January 2019

Underdogs with bite and sloppy South Korea: What we learned from the Asian Cup second round

  • Can the mighty minnows continue impressive run in the UAE?
  • Or will the big guns start to fire in quarterfinals?

LONDON: Asia’s biggest sporting spectacle has reached its quarterfinal stage — and it’s time for teams to find their A-game. While there are few surprises in the last-eight lineup, the form of some of the big-name sides has been less than impressive. Here we deliver our verdict on the second round.

BIGGEST DISAPPOINTMENT — Saudi Arabia’s attack

The Green Falcons started the tournament at top speed. They came in as one of the cup favorites and in their opening two matches illustrated why. A 4-0 thrashing of North Korea was backed up with a relatively simple 2-0 victory over Lebanon. Understandably, that raised hopes that Juan Antonio Pizzi’s men could go all the way in the UAE. Alas, it was not to be as a 2-0 defeat to Qatar in their last group clash left them with a tricky tie against Japan. For all their efforts Saudi Arabia were unable to find the back of the net, the lack of firepower upfront costing Pizzi’s team yet again.

BIGGEST SHOCK — South Korean sloppiness

Boosted by the arrival of Tottenham star Son Heung-Min, South Korea were rightly declared the pre-tournament favorites. They had firepower up front, intelligence and creativity in midfield, and experience at the back. In the four matches in the UAE so far, however, they have looked anything but potential champions. They labored to beat Kyrgyzstan, the Philippines and China in the group stage before almost being shocked by part-timers Bahrain in the second round. South Korea now face Qatar in the last eight and, as Son said after their extra-time win over Bahrain, they need to significantly improve if they are to avoid a shock exit before the semis.

UNDER PRESSURE — Alberto Zaccheroni and the UAE

The Whites owe their place in the last eight to luck more than skill. In some ways that is not a surprise — the hosts came into the tournament without their talisman, the injured Omar Abdulrahman, and on the back of a patchy run of form. But, still, the performances on home soil have been underwhelming to say the least. That was summed up with their extra-time win over Kyrgyzstan, who were playing in their first Asian Cup. It was a far-from-convincing performance and Central Asians were unlucky not to beat Zaccheroni’s side. The UAE will have to deliver their best performance for some time if they are to progress further. Their opponents, Australia, have also performed poorly, which may offer them some encouragement.

BEST HIGHLIGHT — The mighty minnows

The big guns have not had it all their own way. That may annoy their fans, but it does show that Asian football is improving. Only a few years ago the idea that Kyrgyzstan, Bahrain and Jordan would look the equals of Australia and Co. would have seemed fanciful. But in the past two weeks the standard shown by the so-called lesser lights has been impressive — and great to watch. Last summer five Asian teams appeared at the World Cup for the first time and it was hoped that showing would act as a springboard for further progress across the continent. On the evidence of the action in the UAE that wish could be coming true.