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everything you never knew you needed to know about the 2015 World Champs ...

Scott Lee ] [ Amr Shabana ] How it Works ] Walking in Bellevue ] Family Affair ]

Catching up with
Legend Amr Shabana

F: So, I was a bit surprised to hear about your retirement via a tweet from Omar El Sherbini!

My retirement was quite funny, Fram, I didnít put out my retirementÖ Do you want to know how I KNEW I retired??? This is serious!!

I was in Sahel in the West Coast, about 120km from Cairo, in a beach house with my wife, I wake up in the morning, at 9 oíclock, I get a phone call from a tenant that is renting my house, because now we live in Toronto, and he is like ďcongratulationsĒ!

And I was like ďyeah, why
ďI just saw in the newspaper that you retiredÖĒ
ďExcuse me?? Come again??Ē
He is ďyeah, itís in the newspaper
ďI donít know what you are talking about, what newspaperĒ.
ďOkayĒ he goes ďit seems like you donít know, you think you want to check it outÖĒ

And thatís how I knew I retiredÖ

I had been contemplating it, and as the time got closer and closer to September, I hadnít trained yet, and I was like OK, it doesnít seem that September, I would be playing, it will have to be OctoberÖ

And then, when it was leaked that I was going to be working with the Federation, I thought better do it now. Because I saw the landslide coming. It was written in a very small newspaper, you know, rumours newspapers, just one line, like Shabana retires from Professional Squash and talks with the Egyptian Squash Federation for 2016. And thatís how it happened, I was in a rollercoaster after that.

Is not living in Egypt a problem for the National Coach?

2015, through modern technology and electronic communication, gave us the opportunity to be virtually present anywhere in the world as we please. I realised that I can do my job, connecting with the players, of which, many of them are living abroad.

Between June and September, the squash season is full on and not much time is spent by the players in one place, I go back to Egypt for the summer, which is the offseason and will give us, the Egyptian National Teams to all get together and train as a whole team through National training camps.

My work with the Egyptian Federation is Director of the National Teams, and Technical adviser for the Junior sector. We are very lucky to have Mr Assem Khalifa as our Egyptian Squash Federation President. The man is world class in his work and understands exactly how to work the machine that is Egyptian squash. Egypt Squash is lucky to have him and his team. Plus CIB Egyptian Bank as the official sponsor for Egypt squash has been a huge asset for all of us.

The way Mr Assem Khalifa and I saw it, is that the Juniors need hands on coaches, as they still need to improve their squash game, their movement, the striking of the ball or the way they play, there is so much to learn from the age of 10 to 18, thatís the time you learn. For that, you need a coach.

As for the senior players, as much as they need coaches, they also need guidance and advice on how to handle, develop and improve their careers in order to be the best. Someone to be there of them to help them face the many different stations they will pass throughout their careers.

My role is to help and assist every Egyptian player on their quest to become the best player they can be.

Can you give us an example?

I know as a fact from my experience, there is no easy or hard, or good or bad situation that I havenít been through. Good or Bad. Hard or Easy, Iíve been through all of it, from Junior to Senior, and that what I can give back to the players. Like there is a lot of situation that arise, if you are in the middle of it all, itís very hard to take a decision.

Letís say for example, you are injured, and you want to pull out from a tournament. When do you pull out? How to pull out? Should you pull out?

If you are having motivation issues, how to sort it out? So basically, players come up with those situations there are facing, and they talk to me about it, I relate to them my experiences and what I thought was good or bad for me, and how I got out of the situation.

And itís up to them to assess the situation with my input. Plus, during the major tournaments, thatís when I can coach them and act as an adviser.

How do you communicate with your players

Nowadays, via all today's technologies, Skype, Viber, Whatsapp, emails, normal phones, and so far, it has been great. Iím in contact with my players as much as they want to.

If they want to talk to me every day, they can, sometimes when they are facing a specific problem for example. Or they can send me a quick message, and I answer, and itís done.

So Iím just there as the ďextra handĒ for the players to achieve what they want to achieve, as an adviser, as a friend, pre match preparation, post match analysis, training strategy, mind games, whatever they need. Itís not something I went to school for, but thatís something I went to school, but itís the life experience I have.

If someone wants to talk to me about something, OK, I donít have the degree about it, but I have the life experience to talk about it. And sometimes, itís exactly the same thing.

And itís not something that I tell them to do, itís just my opinion, and then they can go to whoever has got the degree if they want to.

All the tributes


 You, so discreet, so camera/media shy, you are now running a youtube channel, you are on twitter, on facebook? Is that to state to yourself you are still alive?

Yes, itís good you picked that up. I used to express myself inside the court. I didnít like to express myself outside the court, I would rather my style of play and my character inside the squash court does all the talking for me. That where I felt more comfortable.

But then, when I retired, I didnít have that luxury anymore, I had to express myself. And I realised I could still express myself through the work Iím doing now, the filming and the directing, and the coaching, and the consulting Iím doing, but itís not enough.

So I decided it was time to get out of my shell, take that step and get out of my comfort zone. Itís important I feel, Iím starting a new life, and itís important to put myself ďin dangerĒ because thatís where the magic happens and opportunities can come. Because if Iím stuck in my comfort zone, I might just stay in my house and do nothing all day. So itís new, Iím enjoying it, thatís what I went to school for, crazily enough, public relations. Iím using now all the tools I was taught as a student, all what I learned as a player to get out of my shell a little bit.

You must have been delighted with the great response you got?

It made me feel good. Even as a player, I never thought people reminding me for my results, I remember thinking I would never have good results, I always tried to be the best player I can be but I always tried to make sure my persona was in the good place, that my character was in the right place.

I always to represent myself in the best way possible, not to be a cheat, not to be an hypocrite, not to be one to hold a grudge, not to be one to make life hard for the referees, or to the media, or to the crowd, always tried to keep it in good spirit.

And I feel that came back to me, people came back and talked to me about my good spirit, I feel that is the response I got was the reward of that ďgood spiritĒ I established for years, I had put a lot of effort in it, itís not easy.

If you look at players with good demeanour, like Nicol David, or Ong Beng Hee, itís very hard to achieve, because you have to have a good demeanour all the time, you cannot just pretend to have a good demeanour if you havenítÖ

So, tell us about your YouTube videos...

The media stuff Iím doing now, the videos, and the twitter, and the facebook, itís a way to express myself and also what players are going through. Some of it is also things that people can learn a thing or two but itís more about putting the spotlight on what athletes are going through.

Because I think one thing you are doing well Fram is that you give characters to players, you create great storylines.

You are not just reporting on the matches, you are reporting the human side of the match, of the players, you bring out their personalities.

Usually, when you read a report, itís this guy beat that guy and thatís it. But what you did, is that you create a storyline for us. And thatís what Iím trying to do too. Just one person doing that for a whole sport is not enough. So what Iím trying to do is to add to your reporting my side of reporting and create storylines for the sport, because thatís what itís missing.

Now, the people understand what Iím trying to do, and what youíve been doing all those years, I now understand how important that is, that you know that each player has its own story, and itís nice to jump in, even for a few minutes, and indulge in it.

I started having that idea when I started with my partner in 2011, when I started working on the documentary Wallbangers. But it was the end of my career, and I was you know what, if you had come to me when I was 19, or 20, I would have loved to help to work with you, but Iím not going to achieve now what Iíve achieved already.

And now that my career has ended, Iím free to talk about it, itís not like Iím having a match next week, the work is done, and itís very easy to reflect on the work that has been done, I can talk with other players, because Iím not competitive anymore, they can be honest with me, and they can talk back to me as a player even not Iím not a player.

If you take my interview with Nick for example, we would have never been able to have that conversation if him and I were about to play in a semi final for example. So itís nice to be in the playerís circle, while not being a player.

You Fram have done that for more than 10 years now, the players trust you, they know you, but itís impossible for anybody to come from outside and talk to the players on a personal level, and Iím telling you, 100% of the players just wonít. So I might as well use my position, my access to the other players and highlight a player from a different angle, show a different aspect.

And to finish, Shabs, are you happy?

Itís still fresh. Until three months ago, I was still on tour, so Iím happy. When somebody asked me, do you miss it? I donít miss it,  I say, but just ask me in a few years.

So Iím still trying to get that balance right. Itís nice for me, because when I go home now, my wife says letís go for a walk, and I was like walk, what do you mean walk, no, that would mean energy to be wasted, noooo walking. Anything that would have to do with energy loss wouldnít be an option and a potential nightmare. So Iím still getting used to the idea that I can just have a walk.

I donít really miss it, but when you do something for so long, I feel that what Iím doing now is still temporary, and that one day, Iíll wake up, and somebody will say, you know what, itís time to go back and train.

Not because I miss it, but because out of habit, thatís what Iíve been doing all my life....

Scott Lee ] [ Amr Shabana ] How it Works ] Walking in Bellevue ] Family Affair ]

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