During December 2018 a group of upcoming junior squash players were mentored by South Africa’s top two professionals JP Brits and Christo Potgieter while on tour to Egypt, their overseas host being none other than Karim Gawad. A few parents joined in and off we went!
The tour was comprised of a stay in Cairo followed by a visit to the mecca of snorkeling, Sharm al-Sheikh. It came as a welcome surprise when we learned that we would also be watching the inaugural PSA Open held at the famous Black Ball Club in Cairo. What a privilege to see the worlds’ best weave their magic and, to top it all, having Karim win this event. This was accomplished with the verbose, flag waving support of our group, a presence which escaped not even the TV commentators.
One must pause to recognize the amazing generosity which reigns among the squash fraternity.
We were afforded such welcome encounters by the likes of Tarek Momen (even though we had unashamedly supported Gawad during their match) and his wife Raneem El Welily, as well as Ali Farag and Karim. Meeting these greats in person and having them pose with our juniors left an impression we shall certainly not forget.
The mornings in Cairo were occupied by tough training sessions with various Egyptian counterparts which included the likes of the then under 19 world champion and PSA ranked 52(now 22), Mostafa Asal.
Our juniors were exposed to a completely different mindset towards the game. Their days were otherwise filled with glorious outings which included a guided visit to the National Museum, a boat trip down the Nile, experiencing the local cuisine and, of course, a guided outing to the pyramids.
The second leg provided an entirely different experience when first crossing the Suez Canal by bus, driving past mount Sinai and seeing firsthand the ominous dessert landscape which had informed such folk law. Upon our arrival at Sharm al-Sheikh we were treated to luxury rooms right off the ocean with delightful restaurants nearby, each spotting spectacular views.
During the mornings our juniors were subjected to rigorous training regimes under the watchful eyes of Karim, JP and Christo. We got to know our host on a personal level and was again taken by his innate kindness and generosity – it is hard to believe that this babyface could ever be likened to an assassin!
The 2018 Egypt tour raised the level of all juniors who toured and elevated them to a new game. It also made for a wonderful cultural experience when everlasting friendships were made. JP and Christo were consummate in their arrangements, protection and support of our youngsters and left an indelible impression on every player and parent in attendance. Where to next, guys?