Hamza Khan laments ‘lack of support’ for squash players

Young athlete bemoans there is more support for cricket in Pakistan, while nobody backs squash.

Following his historic win at the WSF World Junior Championship in Melbourne, Hamza Khan, the champion representing Pakistan, shared his elation while expressing regret over the lack of support during his early career and difficult times.

Khan’s major feat on Sunday marked the country’s return to squash glory after 37 years, following the footsteps of former champions Sohail Qaisar and Jansher Khan, who made the nation proud by clinching the title in 1982 and 1986, respectively.

In an impressive feat, the 17-year-old defeated Egypt’s Mohamed Zakaria, reclaiming Pakistan’s lost reign in the world of squash.

Speaking during an interview for Geo News programme, ‘Geo Pakistan’, the young athlete said: “They say squash doesn’t get enough support because there are no players. There are squash players in Pakistan, but they need support.”

He said his father was coaching and supporting him through his ups and downs, while others left him alone.

“Now that I have won, everyone is calling me and reminding how they taught me the sport. They should have earlier thought of holding my hand during low days. But it was just my father who supported me,” Khan shared the challenges of during his career.

He bemoaned that there is more support for cricket across the nation and nobody backs squash. The athlete sought “support” from the government when asked about being under pressure after the major win.

“We are very weak financially. For instance, when we ask the federation for tickets to participate in the [Professional Squash Association] PSA tournament, they refuse,” he said, adding that the federation cites the high cost of tickets as a reason for refusal and only supports players up to the junior level.

The athlete said he was only accompanied by the director of the Pakistan Squash Federation and that there was no coach, physio or player with him during the tournament. He added that the federation cited a lack of funds for not taking the coach along.

“It is important for the coach and physio to be with the player in case of an injury,” he shared.

The teenager said he worked really hard ahead of the tournament with support from the Pakistan Army and Pakistan Air Force. “My manager Major Suleman supported me a lot. I had aimed in my heart to break this record,” he said.

Khan said he was the only player from Pakistan and was “under a lot of pressure” for being the only representative for the country on the world stage, while other countries had at least six players.

The young sportsman said it is a big deal that Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif and Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Chairman Imran Khan have extended their support towards him, but what he needs at the moment is “financial support”.

“One racket’s price is Rs40,000. So if one breaks while playing, I don’t have four to five kept spare. Other than that, our diet too,” he mentioned speaking about his needs as a squash player.

Sharing his joy about his win, Khan said he couldn’t believe becoming the world champion. “I called my parents first [after winning].”

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