Saturday, August 29, 2009

Your Opportunity

I got this email today and I thought it would be interesting to share it with all you squash enthusiast to be able to hear the SRAM President live on radio. You may have the opportunity to ask him a few questions if you manage to get on air through the phone lines. Details are as follows:

Dear All,

Kindly be informed that the President of SRAM, YBhg Dato’ A.Sani Karim would be on air with very experienced sports commentators. They would be in discussion in the programme ‘Sports Talk and You’, on the radio channel TraXXFM, this Sunday (30 August, 2009), from 10.30 am to 11.00 am.

Be rest assured that these very knowledgeable sports commentators of many decades, in Chris Syer, Ronnie Atkinson and Jesse Van Riessen, would be posing very pointed questions to Dato’. From the questions and the answers from the President himself, Malaysians would have a clearer picture of the direction SRAM would take moving forward to achieve our Vision and Mission.

These sports commentators would beside posing questions on competition, junior programmes, coaching and sponsorships, would definitely venture to pose challenging questions like ‘Where forth after Ong Beng Hee and Azlan’ and ‘Who after Dato’ Nicol’.

Having been a regular listener of this programme, I would highly recommend that all of us in the squash fraternity, tune in to listen to their discussion on the future of squash in Malaysia.


TraXXFM comes on the following frequencies in Malaysia (tune in to the location nearest to you) –

North Johor: Tangkak (97.4), JB (102.9), Bukit Tinggi (92.9),

Kedah: Baling (91.7), Gurun (98.7),

Kelantan : Kota Baru (104.7), Jeli (90.8), Bukit bakar (98.5),

KL, Selangor & West Pahang : (90.3/100.1)

Malacca : (97.4)

Negeri Sembilan, South Selangor : (88.7)

Pahang : Kuantan (105.3), Jerantut (89.9),

Perak : Taiping (105.3), Ipoh (90.1)

Perlis & Penang : (98.7)

Sabah : Gunung Kinabalu (105.3), Kota Belud (102.5)

Sarawak : Bintulu (98.5), Miri (104.5),

Terengganu : Kuala Terengganu (89.7), Dungun (98.9), Besut (97)

Pass the word around and do not forget to keep this Sunday free for squash.

Many thanks.

Warm Regards,

K.Sivanesen

Hon. Secretary SRAM

Cheers and happy squashing.


Monday, August 17, 2009

Aftermath of the Squash 2016 Bid

Missing out on the Olympics, is it a big deal? Some say yes and some say no. Read the following and decide if we were good enough for the Olympics.

The news that squash was not selected as one of two sports to go forward to the big IOC vote in October was disappointing enough. To learn that the sport failed to register a single vote at the IOC meeting in Berlin yesterday was devastating.

Let’s consider that position.

No votes at all. Zero. Nil points. Nothing. A total blank.

That’s where we are, folks. Not even on the radar when it came to the big IOC vote.

In squash terms, it was like the ultimate humiliation of a triple-bagel scoreline.

After golf and rugby sevens got the nod, ahead of squash and four other sports, IOC President Jacques Rogge said: “In the end, the decision came down to which two sports would add the most value.”

That’s protocol shorthand for “these two sports will make the most money for us”. I have written many times in the past about this subject and perhaps Mr Rogge’s admission proves that the IOC places higher value on commercial success than sporting integrity.

We were always led to believe that the ideals and moral values of the Olympic Games meant that we were watching the purest form of sport in the world. However, by adopting a “variety” of a major sport, as in the case of rugby sevens, it is like having the synchronised swimming and diving but without any actual swimming events.

Lots of raw emotions came tumbling out from squash lovers yesterday as the IOC decision was announced. There were bitter criticisms of the IOC on Facebook and various squash forums, plus one or two minor snipes at the squash governing bodies, but let’s examine Mr Rogge’s statement in depth.

In terms of the IOC’s commercial activities, large American corporations who sponsor the Games, and the TV networks that pay large sums for the broadcasting rights, must surely have some kind of input into the decision-making process. We would be rather na├»ve to expect otherwise.

The TV broadcasters know they can sell prime-time advertising slots for commercials during the golf and rugby sevens competitions, but squash does not enjoy the same kind of profile.

That’s not surprising. I hope I don’t get lynched at the US Open in Chicago for saying this, but ask any American about squash and 99 per cent of them will tell you it’s a vegetable. Most of the other one per cent think it’s a kind of racketball.

If you don’t believe me, set up a Google Alert to have any article about squash sent to your email inbox. You will soon be inundated with all kinds of recipes about what to do with left-over squash.

So, in terms of product recognition, we are not performing terribly well in the world’s major economy.

This is despite a vibrant governing body, a booming College League and a growing number of professional tournaments in the USA, which is rapidly becoming a major magnet for many of the world’s leading coaches.

All things considered, perhaps it’s not too surprising that an excellent presentation by the WSF for a sport that ticks all of the necessary Olympic boxes failed to make any headway.

So, where do we go from here? Our priorities as a sport must be to raise the profile of squash at all levels, increase participation levels, fight court closures and deliver high-quality TV coverage on a regular basis throughout the world.

I am preparing a dossier for the WSF with a selection of ideas as to how we can achieve this and look forward to reporting back in due course.

I do know that one brave individual is attempting to mount a legal challenge aimed at proving that the IOC’s voting procedure in Singapore four years ago, when squash and karate were voted in at the first stage and then removed by a subsequent second round of voting, was illegal.

By ALAN THATCHER

Squash ideally fulfills all of the Olympic Charter but that seems to be insufficient nowadays. Ever since the '76 Montreal Games that bankrupt the city, all subsequent hosts were adament to avoid the same path as Montreal. And over the next 2 decades, hosting the Games has been a huge money making machine for the hosts and the IOC.

I believe that squash is still far behind a lot of sports in terms of commercialism and that is MAIN factor we were not selected for the Games. Unless the WSF together with WISPA and PSA start improving and sets benchmarks like FIFA or ATP to emulate with a master plan on how to attain that status, we are doomed to be the poor cousins of all racket sports.

Good news is that we as Malaysians can still produce world class squash players as most of the top countries will focus on the Olympics. Imagine the competition if China, US and even Great Britain had the Olympic funds, how are we to compete with 20mil USD?

Till next time, cheers and happy squashing.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Squash 2016- The Olympic Bid

Squash has failed in getting into the 2016 Olympic at the very first step. Instead, golf and rugby 7 will be the 2 sports that will proceed into the IOC Council voting process where they will try to get the simple majority to get inclusion into the Olympics.

There are mixed reactions towards this decision with joy from golf and rugby supporters while anger and despair from squash supporters. I just hope that the WSF with PSA and WISPA continue to develop and market the sport without the Olympics to attain similar status and glamour with tennis and badminton. Heck, even table tennis is more glamourous than squash.

Cheers and happy squashing.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

NSC Series 8

1st Round

The Series 8 started on Monday with the qualifyings and yesterday with the 1st rounds. The women seem to be doing better than the men but that is expected of it. As normal, I did not watch any women's matches so you have to rely on other alternative reports.

For the men's side, we had 6 men in the main draw but only 1 made pass the 1st round and it is Asyraf who beat Kamran in 4. It was tight in the 1st 2 games where it both went to tie breakers and were shared with Kamran taking the 1st and Asyraf taking the 2nd. Asyraf then kept his nose ahead and with that closed out the match 3-1.

Elvinn played the top seed, Omer Abdul Aziz and lost 3-0 but had his chances in the 2nd and 3rd. Elvinn had gameball 10-7 in the 2nd but could not close it while it was neck and neck in the 3rd all the way.

Jam played Nicholas Muller and also lost 3-0 in a close match especially in the 1st 2 games. Again it was neck and neck in the 1st and Jam had gameball 10-7 in the 2nd but like Elvinn, he just could not finish it. Muller then ran out comfortably in the 3rd as Jam ran out of steam to compete.

Kam Hing was always a step behind Yasir Butt and although he tried hard, there was no way he was going to change the result. A lot of hardwork still needs to be done to ensure he progress to a competitive level.

Ivan actually had a tough opponent in Steve Finitis who is experienced and that showed immediately as Steve imposed his authority over Ivan from the start by punishing every ball that was short or loose. Ivan on the other hand was playing exactly how Steve wanted him to play, impatient and going for shots. That enabled Steve to control the match and Ivan was running all over. By the 3rd, Ivan was lost and crumbled.

Quarterfinals

With only Asyraf in the quarters for the boys, it looked very bleak for Malaysia to get something bearing in mind he was up against the top seed, Omer Abdul Aziz. But Omer was not impressive in his win agaist Elvinn the previous day and so Asyraf had a chance if he could take it. Asyraf started off well taking the first 2 games by being himself, unafraid of his opponents reputation and being absolutely cheeky with gamesmanship which riled Omer. But that took a bit out of Asyraf and Omer staged a fightback and secured the 3rd and 4th with Asyraf looking very tired. Omer was looking confident while Asyraf was very quiet.
The 5th however was the best squash from Asyraf I have seen in the last 3 months, focused and disciplined. He slowed down the game, kept it deep and straight and pick on the loose shots from Omer with deadly straight drops. Asyraf won it 11-4 and Omer was in disbelief. He came out ranting at the referee for being lenient, abused Asyraf by calling him a cheat and used vulgarities and called me a cheat as well for asking Asyraf to use gamesmanship or unethical tactics. I have never done it and will never do it as Asyraf being Asyraf will do things his was. Anyway, if Asyraf can produce the 5th game all the time, he will be good but at the moment, I doubt it.

The women's side we had 3 girls and 2 of them got to the semis. Wee wern had no troubles beating Song Sung Mi 3-0 and Siti pulled a great win by beating the 4th seed Emma Beddoes 3-2 in a marathon battle. Siti deserves the wins as she has been working very hard for the last few months. Sharon however lost to Lauren Siddal in another marathon, having matchball in the process. Plenty of decisions in that match as Sharon was reading Lauren's drops and Lauren being big and tall was slightly slow in clearing with resulted in a lot of lets. That made Lauren very upset but she hung on to beat Sharon.

Semifinals

Asyraf made a very poor start against a very disciplined and aggresive Nicholas Muller losing the 1st easily. Asyraf then started tightening his game and fought back to win the 2nd in a tie break to even the match. It was neck and neck in the 3rd till 7-7 and then Muller pulled away. 4th game was very close with Muller eventually winning 13-11. A good show by Asyraf in terms of discipline squash but just lacks the aggression in taking the ball early and clinical finishing. He was a little sloppy with the easy chances that were presented to him and that cost him.

Wee wern was up against Aisling and what a marathon it was, 85 minutes in all. Wee Wern was 2-1 and matchball up but could not finish it. She then went a little too safe and Aisling was pretty much comfortable in the 5th leading all the way by 2 points all the time. Wee Wern made too many unforced errors on her easy drops and cost her the match which was at least 5 per game. Too high for squash at this level and needs to work on it.

Siti was determined to prove that she was not lucky in beating Emma who had a tough 5 setter in the 1st round. But Lauren's sheer power proved the difference, constant hammering of the ball kept Siti on her back foot throughout the first 2 games. Siti managed to slow it down and squeezed the 3rd but then lauren upped the pace again in the 4th. As hard as Siti tried, there was no stopping Lauren winning that 11-0.

So no Malaysian in the finals. Hard luck to the trio especially Wee Wern. Work harder and try again the next time. I would have to say that Siti has impressed me with her display in this series of tournaments with some good results and performances. Well done and continue the hard work.

Check Squashsite for the results. Cheers and happy squashing!

Monday, August 10, 2009

Not Alone

All this while I was thinking that the true and passionate community of squash in Malaysia that puts the interest of the sport ahead of everything else was a very small and insignificant to the eyes of the average Malaysian or the corridors of power (hehe... sorry RPK, I had to borrow this). Now, this small community just has it's biggest and most influential supporter, Tunku Imran. The former SRAM president has lent his voice and you can read what he thinks below:

http://level-field.blogspot.com/2009/08/do-not-rest-on-your-laurels.html

Thanks to Tony Mariadass for the insight.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Do not rest on your laurels

Many sports have suffered the consequence of resting on their laurels and one sport currently enjoying the "good times" could suffer the same, if not immediately addressed.

It is no surprise sports like football, hockey and athletics are today paying the price for resting on their laurels and neglecting development.

One sport which could suffer the same fate is squash.


This was underlined by Tunku Tan Sri Imran, the Olympic Council of Malaysia and founding chairman of SportExcel (Foundation for Malaysian Sporting Excellence).

Tunku Imran was actually giving examples from his own personal experience of how private enterprise has involved itself in Sports Development in Malaysia when he was speaking on Optimising Private Enterprise in Sports Development at the Sports Industry Convention (KISMAS) on Saturday.

He had cited SportExcel which has evolved around sponsors from private sectors funding to become a key player in development of sports. He also mentioned Cricket where through personalities involved in the sports they have built international arenas for the sport.

He also touched on a "new wave" - getting domestic sport on television - which is in the offing through the assistance of Astro. This he said is vital for nurturing a Sports Culture where the private sector is playing a major role.

But what caught my attention was when Tunku Imran spoke about squash, where he was passionately involved - both as a player and administrator.

He bluntly put it that squash which is enjoying a high profile through the likes of Datuk Nicol David, Mohd Azlan Iskandar and Ong Beng Hee, could well suffer the fate it had underwent in the late 80s.

Then we had the likes of Mej S. Maniam,Jerry Loo, Alvin Lau, Patrick Gurubathan, Lionel Lau, Muhaimi Mustapha, Chris Chan, Yeoh Lam Jit, Richard Hashim and Gerald Monterio, to name a few.

Squash Racquet Association of Malaysia (SRAM) was founded in 1972 when there were 23 courts mainly belonging to clubs. By 1980 there were over 400 courts and today there is easily about 1,000 courts.
An article I did in The Malay Mail in December 1991 on how not many associations can match the progress of SRAM - having a place of their own in less than a decade. They had an administration block at the Subang Squash Centre that boasted of 20 courts. This was made possible through working with the private sector. The vision of Tunku Imran, then president and brainchild of architect and SRAM committee member Peter Lim.

That's how big squash as grown with heavy investment in squash centres, in shopping malls and people making good returns.

But somehow, Tunku Imran feels that currently, despite squash enjoying a high profile status, enough is not done for the game.

He pointed out that the KL squash league which used to have 94 teams has now dwindled, and the game needsn new strategies to market and reposition themselves.

He bluntly put it that SRAM needs to broaden its base again and if they do not, they willl not have any more World Champions down the line.

It is a fact the the gap between the likes of Nicole (World No 1), Azlan (No 16), Ong (No 21) and the rest of Malaysian players is indeed wide.

But in all fairness to SRAM, they have a good sponsor, have several development programmes in place, including organising the SportsExel circuits and have their visions all charted out. (checkout SRAM's website). They even have a strategic plan from 2008 - 2013 in place.

However, for Tunku Imran to express his conern, obvioulsy he still sees something not in place and that needs to be addressed. Hopefully, SRAM will take note and address the situation.

I cannot imagine the state of other national sports associations. If SRAM, who seem to been working hard and is a well established and organised association, is being warned of the pitfall, I hate to even think of the many other associations who have nothing going for them and development is a foreign word to them.

Indeed, a timely wake up call for all sports associations and they had better pay heed to it immediately. Otherwise, just be prepared to sink further into the doldrums.