For a few years now, we've been staying in the same lovely hotel
in Doha, which seems to have changed name over the years.
And again this year, same place, different name. Or I thought...
Although the people are the same, at the restaurant - same
adorable waiters, chef de rang, receptionists - all ready to
help and provide us with gallons of tea for me, and tons of food
for Mr Joey Barrington, the concierge staff, etc, you can really
feel the upgrade everywhere.
A new aisle has been added, with executive rooms - they
apparently were full when I arrived late at night, so they gave
me one of those - awwwwh, I know, shame, isn't it - and I must
say just going from the bed to the bathroom is exercise enough
to keep me fit!
food quality is higher, the decoration is superb, they seem to
have more people in attendance, as in, whatever you ask for,
laundry, house cleaning, you have somebody at your door within
And something really great for SquashSite too, is that the
internet connection in the room is really fast, didn't stop
once, and is provided for us free of charge compliments of QSF.
PS. I still haven't tried the pool this year, but I don't despair
to have the time next year isa....
TOO MUCH FOR ONE...?
I am old enough to remember the days when we were going to 9,
had two serve and only one ref and one marker.
In those days, being a ref meant a bit being El Supremo, only
having to concentrate on the decisions to be made and keeping
the players in line.
The marker was handling the scoring, plus the double bounces and
the out of court decisions.
Nowadays, the Central Man is in charge of collecting the infos
from his side ref, keeping the score, on top of taking their own
decisions. That's hot seat or what?
now, they find themselves having to deal on top with calling the
video reviewing, keeping counts of who is asking for it, who got
it right, who got it wrong, and that in a split second, as the
players, well, they need the game to keep on going...
Add to that the fact that certains refs are not from English
mothertongue, and that it takes that little bit longer to find
the correct way to spell it all out (I know what I'm talking
about here), and that could explain the confusion we had on
certain matches here. A lot of squash balls need to be kept in
the air it seems....
I'm so for the three refs system, and I love the video reviewing,
it adds to the drama and puts us in the 21st century. But maybe
we should share the tasks a little more equally? Like, one side
ref could share the handling of the stats for the reviewing, and
the other the scoring? Or any other set up really?
I mean, maybe it is just too much for one person to handle...?
HOME AT LAST...
After 15 years travelling the
world, the former World Number one, Word Champion, British Open
Champion has decided to come home...
"Iím back training in Australia at the AIS now, itís the first
time since Iím 19, 20 since I was last based over there. Of
course, Iím still away a lot, about 10 weeks per year, and itís
so far to fly from, but it really feels good to be back home
"Itís like I feel Iíve been living out of a suitcase and in
somebodyís home for the past 15 years. Itís too great to be able
to interact with friends and family, not just with people from
squash. And itís good to hang out with Australians, itís simple,
itís easy, so good to be home.
"Also, I really felt it was time for me to start to think and
settle down, and call a place a home. I canít keep playing
forever, and Iíve got to start getting another life I can slip
in to when I retire, something to do when Iím not playing squash
Well, looking at her performance here in the semis, I don't
think she will be retiring just yet, I so enjoyed her match, and
I saw her like rejuvenated...
After a glance
Doha's back to the future, then a visit of the
Aspire zone, the
last part of our trip. A meeting with Geoff
Hunt, that honestly doesn't need much presentation, he won
everything that can be won, and many many times, and to be more
precise, 4 world Champion titles, and 8 British Open Champion.
did it all started?
In the middle of 2006, I had resigned from Head Coach at the AIS (Australian
Institute of Sports), I was still mentor to the Head Coach, but I didnít
know exactly what I was going to do.
I saw the ad for a head coaching job in Aspire here in Qatar. And the
philosophy of it really interested me, I liked the idea of a home grow
champion. Too many countries were going for the importing of champions
concept, I thought having home athletes was a much more interesting basis to
So, I applied for the job, and got an interview. And when I arrived here, I
was, like you were, amazed by what I saw, the venues, grounds, just
astonishing really. And also, I was so happy that the squash was actually
included in such a program, it not being a major sport, itís often left out.
was also impressed by the Director of Sports, what he had to say. And at the
end of the meeting, I was proposed the job! So I said to my wife, ďwell, Iím
going to have to consider this pretty seriously then!Ē
And that what happened!
You seem very happy here...
Itís been the most rewarding experience, I would have never imagined I would
live around here, and itís been a revelation really.
The working conditions are pretty amazing, even if itís sometimes a bit
frustrating, because the boys donít realise how lucky they are and donít
take it seriously enough. But on the other end, Iím happy with the impact
Iíve had on the sport, and I hope I can keep on doing so a bit longer!
do work closely with the QSF, don't you?
Yes, the cooperation with the Qatar Squash Federation is total, and it makes
things so easy, there is no conflict, everybody is working in the same
direction, itís a real bonus.
Is your family here with you?
Well, when I arrived initially, we were supposed to come with my boy who was
at the time 14, but with my wife, we decided it was better for him to finish
his schooling in Australia.
So we discussed the situation, and she said immediately that she would
support me all the way. Of course, itís been difficult, and had not she been
the special lady she is it would have never worked.
But weíve got such a strong relationship, we make it work. I speak with my
family every day, I manage to go there twice a year, and she comes a few
times as well.
How do you fill your free time then?
I do keep myself busy, and fit! I play golf, I watch all the sporting events
available in the region, and you name it, we have it! Tennis, F1, Golf,
Athletics, itís all happening here!
I get to live the event close-up and personal, Iím not just a spectator, I
get to be there, to live it! Like for the Asian Games in 2006 and 2010, I
was part of it, and it was a fantastic experience.
All this, I would have never thought I would ever experienced, and Iím proud
I was able to help and make this amazing project workÖ
Geoff Hunt, Member
of the Order of the British Empire (MBE), Member of the Order of
At the age of 12, Geoff Hunt took up squash, and by 18
in 1965, he won the Australian national title - the first of
seven times he would triumph at that level, making him the youngest
player in history to do so.
In 1969, he became the first player to win the World Amateur and
British Open Championships in the one year.
He was ranked either number 1 or 2 in the world every year from
1967 to 1981.
Throughout his career, Hunt won a record - to that time - 8
British Opens (1969, 1974, 1976 - 1981) (he was runner up in
1970 and 1972), 4 World Opens (1975, 1976, 1979 and 1980),
three World amateur titles (1967, 1969, and 1971), 16 Australian
titles, 3 World Team Championships, eight South African
and three Irish championships.
He won every major tournament in the world, and the majority of
those more than once.
In all, Hunt played 215 tournaments in Australia and overseas
and won 178 of them, representing more than 80% of
those he contested.
Hunt maintains a connection with the squash community to this day.
He was appointed head coach of the Australian Institute of Sport
squash unit when it opened in 1985 until 2003 where he helped
develop a new generation of Australian squash stars, and is Squash
Australia's high performance manager.
Hunt was made a in 1982 for his services to the sport of
squash, and to international relations.
Facilities - an amazing glass court, three weeks old, with
resizable traditional courts (doubles)
The Students working with Geoff at Aspire
Fram tells you
Everything you never knew you needed to know about Qatar ...
The Official Dinner Setting
THE NAME IS KAMRAN.
For an awful long time - and I'm sure
it still happens to him -
Joey Barrington had to go through being
introduced as the Son of.
It's not easy, but in his case, his
dad was very present in his every day life, in his education,
and therefore, in his choice of career.
Which is not the case at all for young Kamran Khan, son of the
squash Legend Jansher Khan. His dad - for reasons that we won't
get into here - was not around to raise, love and help the young
man, I'm told.
Hence, one may ask. Why, with all that heavy history, that
controversy, that pain since a toddler, why on EARTH would he
chose to pursue a squash career???
"Since my youngest age, I was living in a complex where
there was a squash club. Add to that, my mum Violet was National
Champion, my uncle as well was playing squash, so quite
naturally, I started playing squash. And I liked it. More and
And squash is pretty much all his life now.
two weeks before the World
Juniors Ė it was meant to be my last one, I twisted my ankle
while training. And that was pretty awful, I was top 8 seed, and
missing my last junior Worlds in those conditions was really bad.
It's my worst memory ever."
Kamran doesn't like showing his emotions. You've got to
read between the lines, a bit like Beng Hee really. I did
notice that he was really nervous before serving for match ball
against Joey though in the final of the qualifying.
He took an awful long time to serve, wiped his hands twice on
the wall. And when he finally won that last rally, a loud "Yes"
resounded, closed fists. And even more touching for me, he very
briefly put his head against Joey's shoulder, showing the
respect he had for him, and how important it was to win and
qualify. He looked, well, so young for that split second.
for me a magical moment I don't think many people caught...
"I think qualifying for this event might have been my
best moment in squash, I mean, getting into
the world's top 32, thatís pretty good.
Iím really happy, it makes all
the hard work worth itÖ"
But now that he seems to have decided to go for that career,
isn't the prestigious past of his progenitor too heavy to carry?
"You know, my aim is to do the best I
can, Iím not there thinking I will win 10 British Open titles. I
have expectations, of course, getting to top 20, and see from
there. I think Iíve got what it takes, not sure about what the
others think but I do think I have
what it takes.
"At the end of the day, I like the
game, what it represents, I like the
competition, for example, I want to take over Azlan and Beng Hee
on the Malaysian stage, getting that number
one spot, and I like
that, I like that challenge.
"Simply put it, I play squash because
I enjoy it, not because of my name."
The name is Kamran. Full stop.
You, reading this comfortably sitting at home or at the office,
you don't realise what I'm going through to send you news.
I'M FREEZING MY CUTE BUTT FOR YOU!
I'm sure by now, you are looking at the top of this page
thinking, hold on, isn't she in Doha???
One of the
hottest countries on the planet???
Well, it's all about the court conditions. The glass court floor
has been newly painted according to the ASB recommendations (read
below), but to make sure the players are playing in the best of
conditions and avoid any slip, the temperature of the venue is
what seems like
Of course, it's not 10į, but it feel pretty cold still...
So, here we are, officials, spectators, media, all
freezing for the benefit of our little dears...
Nabeel Ali Bin Ali Al-Maslamani, President of the Qatari
And in view of making sure our Boys and Girls don't get injured,
the QSF and PSA went a step further. You may remember the court floor
being dark blue for the past 18 years - yes, that's the age of
it doesn't feel it, I tell you.
Well, have a look now. Nice brown it is,
courtesy of the paint
recommended by ASB for its flooring.
But it was not that simple, let me tell you.
The paint was urgently shipped to Doha, but stopped at the customs, as
like in any country, it enters
the category of "chemical substance". Alaaeldeen Allouba, Technical Director,
received the assistance of Talal Al-Mawlawi to
help with the speedy clearing of the paint....
Then of course, they are to sand the
floor. Ah. Which machine to
use then. ASB sends a photo of the machine. Well, says
would rather have the specs, just in case we don't have that
exact machine available in the country.
Specs are sent, machine is found thanks to Hisham Algosaibi,
and generously donated for free by a company
called TADMUR Trading, and to make sure,
Alaaeldeen gets a second one, to be on the safe side.
Once the paint is within the building, under the supervision of
ASB, the sanding starts ... for about
one minute, as the machine makes an
explosion noise, and dies.
Call the renting company which says that it's the sand paper
roll that needs to be changed. "Can you send it to us", says
"Well, we have already sent the 30m roll we had," replies a
surprised clerk. "We never got it, can we buy it then, elsewhere?".
"No you can't, it's made in the US, and there is no more in the
After a long, painful and heart attack conversation, Alaa gets
the roll that was actually found in the renting office.
Roll arrived, floor was sanded, paint was applied and dried in
time for the players to show us their talent.
But pfew.... Boring like watching paint dry??? I don't think so....
Our Hotel (More next edition)
Fram tells you
Everything you never knew you needed to know about Qatar ...
QATAR - ALL
I'm slightly crippled and have only half a knee left, I'm
thinking about moving to Qatar after visiting the "Aspire
Zone", whose map you are looking at.
It's huge. Absolutely huge. And it's all about sport. Football,
of course, but not only. Basically, all the sports you can think
of, they are practiced and taught here, for leisure or for
When I say huge, it's not a figure of speech. It took my driver
about 30m to find the building
Geoff Hunt was waiting for me to show me the Aspire
Academy where the Squash venue is....
Follow the guide, people...
Let's start with the Aspire Park,
88 hectare, with running tracks, a lake, restaurant and cafť.
Running alongside it, the biggest Shopping Mall in Doha, the
Villaggio Shopping Mall, with Gondolas, Cinemas,
international brands, ice rink, and of course restaurants. Yes,
you read well, gondolas....
the middle, the famous Khalifa Stadium, which welcomed
the Asians Games 2006, and is under complete refurbishement, and
should host one of the semi finals of the World Cup.
A few figures, 50,000 seats, football pitch of course, 6 floors,
two swimming pools in the stands, HD broadcast facilities, etc.
Have a look also at the
video of a National Football game. Do you think they like
their football over here? Do you still think they "bought" the
World Cup just for the sake of it???
To the north of the stadium, you'll find the Hamad Aquatic
Centre, over 5 floors, where you can swim, dive, synchronise
swim, and play water polo, among other aquatic activities.
of course, 2 Olympic swimming pools, 2 Olympic Diving pools, and
why not, I throw in a warm up pool, with seating for 3,000
Come on, we are far from finished yet. Here is the Ladies
Club, the first of its kind in the country, specially
designed the recreational needs of women.
It's got 3 floors, a Health Spa, business centre and library,
tennis and squash courts, indoor and outdoor swimming pool,
hairdresser, beauty salon, restaurant, cafť and 2 Ballrooms!
to it, you'll find as well the Ladies Sports Hall, with
indoor facilities like Bakset Ball, Hand Ball, Volleyball, etc.
To finish with this first part of the visit, let's glance at the
hotels - well, OF COURSE, there are 2 luxury hotels there - The
Torch and the Khalifa Motel.
The Torch, well, easy to see why it was given that name,
isn't it?? The tallest building in Qatar, 5 stars, 167 rooms and
suites, a revolving restaurant, a unique 3 level Health Club and
Gym with an outdoor swimming pool, the highest I've ever seen to
And the Khalifa Motel, well, looks like a Victorian
Castle, 138 rooms 5 star Motel just next to the Aspire Academy.
You said Aspire Academy? Let's push the doors, shall we?
INVITING TOP ATHLETES
ASPIREís long-term sports development philosophy is an inspirational
quest to create a generation of outstanding Qatari sportsmen, and a
sporting culture to match.
Top junior teams are brought to Doha for friendly competitions and
travel all over the world for training camps, which include
competition against the worldís most respected junior teams and
And here we are. In the Aspire Dome. Home to the
Aspire Academy for Sports
Just to give you an idea of the surface of the bleeping thing.
The Aspire Dome has the capacity to host 13 different
sporting events (yes, they have 13 grounds), including -
wait for it - a FIFA standard football pitch with 5,500 seats!
And all that with Air Conditionned...
Of course, Olympic swimming pool, with diving pool, and 800
seats. Athletics tracks, IAAF accredited, it goes without saying.
Gymnastic training hall, Table tennis hall, Volley Ball, Basket
Ball, Hand Ball, Martial Arts, Fencing, Squash of course, a 1200
set Amphitheatre, function rooms, etc, etc, etc.
nice thing, all the administrators are regrouped under the same
roof, but on two floors.
And I understand that the people on the first floor are the BIG
people.... When you get to the first floor, people, you know
you've made it!
Along the Sport side of things, you have the academic side of
rooms, plus physios, biomecanics, nutrition, sport
And the boys - yes, that Academy for Sports Excellence is for
Boys only -
although they run a program throughout the Qatar Schools from
the age of 6 to promote sport activities for both Boys and
Girls as well - the boys was I saying, have even a boarding
During their last year, students are encouraged to stay here to
get used to the University Feel, to get used to fend for
themselves, and see if they like it, and if they can get used to
not having their family as close...
discover the Squash Facilities and an interview of Geoff Hunt,
head coach here since 2006, in our next edition...
Fram tells you
Everything you never knew you needed to know
about the Qatar Classic ..
QATAR, BACK TO THE FUTURE....
One of the great things about being
on the Squash Circuit, is that you get to see places other
"normal" people only get to hear about.
Let's take... Qatar shall we? The name rings "World Cup 2022" at
the moment, doesn't it? With all the controversies that went
with it, talks of corruption were associated with the
awarding the event to the small country. Surely, surely, they know
nothing about Football, about Sport in general, and they used
underhand ways to win that bid .... some say.
Well, I wish all those people could see what's actually
happening in Qatar, about life in general, and Sport in
I was lucky enough to be shown a tour of Aspire,
the Place to Be when you are an athlete - or a simple housewife
for that matter.
During my stay, I'm going to try and make you discover a bit of
Qatar, its history, the evolution this country is going through,
and their love and dedication to sport....
I'M OFFICIALLY BLOND...
really famous for making the best of the Breakfast time with the
players, and this morning, here I was chatting away with
Thierry, Greg and Joey. Didn't see the time pass by.
Came back to my room, looked at my mobile, blimey, 11.18, with
the matches starting at 12! I virtually flew downstairs, got a
car, arrived in the Press Room, no Cubs! Now I'm really worried.
What's going on???
I go rush to the court... where the clock shows 11.00....
Thing is, I keep the time of my computer on French time at all
times, so, I'm so used to adding one hour, I did it automatically on
From this ...... to that.... Spot
the Sheraton building in the bottom photo....
Have a good look at the two photos above. Yes, it's the same
view, twenty years later.
On the first one, you can see only one
building, it's the Sheraton Hotel.
Cut to 2011, and have a look at the Skyline.
A few changes, wouldn't you say???
A BIT OF HISTORY
A LOOOOOOONG TIME AGO....
- Archeological discoveries, inscriptions and a
collection of exquisite pottery which were found in scattered
areas in the country have proven that the land of Qatar was
populated as early as 4000 BC.
-In the 5th century BC the Greek historian Herodotus
referred to the seafaring Canaanites as the original inhabitants
of Qatar. Further, the geographer Ptolemy showed in his map of
the Arab World "Qatara" as believed to refer to the Qatari town
of "Zubara", which has acquired the fame of being one of the
most important trading ports in the Gulf region at the time.
-During the 16th century AD, the Qataris aligned
with the Turks to drive out the Portuguese. Subsequently, Qatar
alongside with the whole regions of the Arabian Peninsula came
under the Ottoman Empire rule for about four successive
-In the aftermath of the 1914 First World War, the
Turkish rule in Qatar came to an end and Qatar signed a
protection treaty with Britain in 1916. However, the British
influence in the country was limited to supervision of some
The reach of the British Empire diminished after the
Second World War, especially following Indian independence in
Pressure for a British withdrawal from the Arab emirates
in the Gulf increased during the 1950s, and the British
welcomed Kuwait's declaration of Independence in 1961.
When Britain officially announced in 1968 that it would
disengage politically, though not economically, from the Gulf in
three years' time, Qatar joined Bahrain and seven other
Trucial States in a federation.
Regional disputes however, quickly compelled Qatar to resign and
declare independence from the coalition that would evolve into
the seven-emirate United Arab Emirates.
On September 3, 1971, Qatar became an
independent sovereign state.
Qatar's national income primarily derives from oil and natural
Qataris' wealth and standard of living compare well with those
of Western European states; Qatar has one of the highest GDP per
capita in the Arab World.
With no income tax, Qatar is also one of the two least-taxed
sovereign states in the world (the other is Bahrain).
While oil and gas will probably remain the backbone of Qatar's
economy for some time to come, the country seeks to stimulate
the private sector and develop a "knowledge economy".
In 2004, it established the Qatar Science & Technology Park to
attract and serve technology-based companies and entrepreneurs,
from overseas and within Qatar.
For the 15th Asian Games in Doha, it established Sports City, consisting
of Khalifa stadium (where one of the semis of the World
Cup should be played), the Aspire Sports Academy (which
you'll discover in my next edition), aquatic
centres, exhibition centres and many other sports related
buildings and centres.
The country has oil estimated at 15 billion barrels (2.4 km≥)...
... while gas reserves in the giant north field (South
Pars for Iran) which straddles the border with Iran and are
almost as large as the peninsula itself are estimated to be
between 800Ė900tcf (Trillion Cubic Feet - 1tcf is equal to
around 80 million barrels of oil equivalent).
SIYOLI, FOR ONE MINUTE...
Guys, if you thought you ever had troubles getting a visa, you
haven't heard about what happened to South Africa's Syoli
Waters when she went to Shangai this week....
To make a story short, when she came back from the States, she
had only two weeks to get her visa for China before flying to
Kuwait. It should have been easy, but she got a negative answer
from the China Embassy in South Africa as she didn't have enough
space on her passport!
She tries to apply for a tempory one, doesn't work, then she
finally her new one, but it's now Friday, her flight to KW is on
the Tuesday, and the Embassy is closed Monday Tuesday. She is
then told, not a problem, you'll be able to get it from Kw.
When in KW, because she is not a KW citizen, she is told that
no, actually, she can't have it. Phone the Embassies in both
countries, her husband Dave helps as well, gets somebody in SA
to open the Embassy over there on the Sunday to be able to talk
to the KW counterpart.
Hourray, she is now getting her visa on the Monday morning. Only
trouble, she is playing in China at 5pm on Tuesday. So, change
of flight, leaving now Monday night, with a change, she is
supposed to arrive before 4pm in Shangai.
But she arrives only at 4. The taxi rushes her through the
Shanghai traffic, and she arrives at the club at 5.09, flies to
the bathroom, gets changed and is on court at 5.11. Only to be
told that she had only 10m, and that she is 1 minute too late.
Floods of tears, but hey, what can you do. She shakes her
opponent's hand and the story could stop there. But the Dutch
coach drops 'you know, I think the book says 15m, not 10m".
With the help of Olga, they get on internet, and yes, the book
says 15m! Siyoli phones WISPA, gets Tim Garner on the phone, who
confirms, it's all fine, she can play.
And of course, she won.
If you want the full story,
please read Siyoli's
MARRIAGE IN THE
Hisham Ashour, it's now Omar
"Her name is Mariam, she is 23 years old, and we are
been engaged for two years now.
"She is the one that makes most of the things in my life smooth
and lovely :)"
Awhhhh, don't you just love it??
They are getting married for Christmas this year and will
be moving to their new house...
Best wishes from us at SquashSite, Omar...