Pakistan is set to host an international squash tournament for the first time in years. World class players return to Pakistan in first significant event after the 9/11 attacks.
On Wednesday, the Pakistan Open Squash Championship for men and women is set to open at the Asif Nawaz Squash Complex, at the DA Creek Club, Karachi. Karim Abdel Gawad, currently ranked 9th in the world and former the best in the world, is set to participate in the Pakistan Open. Alongside Diego Elias, the Peruvian player. The event prize money is set at $73,000, with men’d event carrying a handsome prize money of $53,000 while US$20,000 have been set aside for the debuting women’s competition.
Foreign officials and players have started arriving in the metropolis to compete in the country’s premier every, hosted by the city for the first time since 2005. The legendary squash player Jahangir Khan unveiled the details of the competition at a press conference held at the DA Creek Club on Monday.
The 10-time former British Open champion, who holds a world record for staying unbeaten in a mind-boggling 555 consecutive matches spread over five-and-a-half years, was flanked by sponsors and his dedicated team of officials. “High-profile events are important to enhance country’s soft image” said Jahangir Khan.
Jahangir, who was also the head of the organizing committee, expressed his gratitude to the Professional Squash Association (PSA) and the Pakistan Squash Federation (PSF) for granting the honour to the Sindh Squash Association (SSA) for staging the mega event in Karachi.
According to the PSA rules, 22 players were granted direct entries in both categories while the hosts have selected 4 local wildcard players, 2 for the men’s category and 2 for the women’s.
Ahsan Ayaz and Noman Khan were given wildcards in the men’s category while Amna Fayyaz and Noor-ul-Huda got wildcards in the women’s category.
The runner up of the recent DHA Cup, Tayyab Aslam, and Asim Khan are the two Pakistanis in the open draw. Madina Zafar, Sadia Gul, Riffat Khan, Anam Mustafa Aziz and Zahab Kamal Khan have been directly placed in the women’s main round.
The squash maestro went on to say that three back-to-back international squash events in the city has not only lifted the image of Pakistan as a peace loving nation but at the same time provided an opportunity to country’s players to deliver and enhance their world rankings.
“Hosting of the events will also motivate the youth who were deprived of watching top players in action for the last 10 to 15 years due to security concerns,” said the squash maestro. “Pakistan has a lot of talent in squash but unfortunately, the players lacked commitment” he added.
The former No 1 and famous squash player, Geoff Hunt, arrived at the QAI Airport, where he was received by Jahangir Khan and SSA official Rashid Ahmed.
The tournament is set to begin tomorrow, with all eyes on the trophy.