Black Ball, a HUGE success…

“Pour un coup d’essai, ce fut un coup de maître” would we say in French, “for a first try, it was a masterpiece.” A so many levels. Yeah yeah yeah I can see a few smirky smiles on your faces: “she loves Egypt so much, of course she is going to say it was a great event.”

Well, yes, I do love Egypt, but I am also aware of the challenges it normally presents: as my best friend Magi would say, after living here for 43 years, ‘Egypt is an organised chaos, without the organising part.’

But this time round, thanks to Ashraf Hanafi and his team, and the Black Ball organisation to support it - the Black Ball Chairman Mr Ahmad ElAbd, Mr Mohamed Raef, Black Ball CEO, and Mr H. Mandour, Manager of Black Ball – we are talking very close to perfection. I kid you not.

From the Players point of view

I heard only good returns from the boys. First, they loved the hotel, which is according to them the best they ever had in Egypt. A great golf course, swimming pools indoor and outdoor, with a dedicated spa/gym, great brand new rooms, not too spread around as in not too far away to come back to reception and restaurant, and excellent breakfast/24h restaurant/room service.

The shuttle service ran like clockwork, not a false note in the transport, and in Cairo, Uber and Careem Cars are widely available and very cheap. The venue, plenty of courts to train, a great gym, food on site and the Concord Mall literally round the corner with about 15 restaurants, supermarket, pharmacy, etc.

They loved the fact the opening dinner was in the hotel as no time wasted in transport, not too long, great food, and quickly back to their room the night before the first day of competition. They loved the court, the crowd, the feel in general.

The general consensus was “everything is taken care of, we only have to think about our squash” which the biggest compliment a player can express.

From the Referees point of view

The officials seemed to appreciate the place too and were told that the way the deep seating was built was allow them to be at the same time close and high. Of course, we could have done without the John Massarella health scare, but they all seem pretty happy.

It was particularly nice to see the return of Samah Hanafi on the international scene, one of the best referees in Egypt for the past 25 years, and who seemed to be not used on the Tour as she should be in all logic. I guess it’s because we have sooo many women ref we don’t need another one now, do we…Mwhahahaha.

OnSport on board

It was great news for all the Egyptian parties that OnSport, one of the major Sports TV Channels – using the SquashTVLite system - not only showed the matches live with the commentary done in their studio in the 6th October (4 per night second and third round, then all of the matches from the quarters on), but they also had a studio on site, with an analysis post match with the key people of squash commenting live, with the players being brought to them right after their matches.

The viewing figures of course are good at over 10 millions per day, such good news for tournament sponsors and for the players and their own sponsors as well … Not to mention how delighted the Egyptian players were of course to be on the major sports channel in their country.

From our point of view

I cannot speak for everybody but for the SquashSite team, it was a smashing hit. OK, there are always little blips in the details, but overall, the Black Ball team was marvellous to work with. Steve was happy with the frontwall arrangements to take pics, the media room was not too far away and he was able to run between the two rather easily, and the internet didn't have a single bad moment!

Thanks to the perfect thinking of the seating arrangement, well after the first day – please have a look at the pic and try to spot me, that was day one, I had trouble breathing!! - two rows were kept reserved until the semis to allow the PSA players, officials, family, and little me to be able to watch the matches without dozens of kids making it too lively, bless them.

So I was able to work “Qatar Style” as in with my computer onsite and not waste time/match sighting by going back and forth to the media room.

Only black spot for me was the Music Man – in the beginning, it was not a DJ, and it was a bit of a nightmare with the volume, and at some point, I thought about making him swallow the whole machine, leads included!!! Instead, I used my ear plugs to be able to type in peace. But it was sorted eventually and finally, we had some great music at a perfect level!

Ali & Fed. Board Member Karim Elmestekawy OnSport

Black Ball CEO Mohamed Raef

Minister of Youth & Sports Aschraf Sobhy
& Black Ball Chairman
Ahmad ElAbd

With Assem Khalifa,
Federation President


The reasons of success:
Passion for our sport


It starts from the top of the ‘excuse my silly reference’ pyramid, CIB Egypt, with his Vice-President, Mr Hussein Abaza, former Egyptian Number 1, who is a passionate about squash as very few people are. CIB Egypt - The Bank To Trust - believes in supporting Egyptian Athletes not only for today, but also for the future.

They ensure the training and the support of the younger generations, and we are lucky, ever so lucky that Squash is one of the sports they are encouraging to grow.

The Pyramid then opens to Black Ball Chairman Ahmad ElAbd. The man is passionate about squash he admits. “I love squash, in squash, you need to think, you need to react, it’s the best sport in the world.

“I have been a squash player for 40 years now, so I adore squash.” he smiles, and adds “It was a dream of mine to do something for squash, especially in Egypt, as we are not too bad in squash! I wanted to do something to make sure we are going to maintain the high level we are appreciating at the moment. And I’m encouraging people in Egypt to do the same."

And it’s only a beginning, he has great plans for make sure Egypt stays at the top of world scene.

“I have started with this club, that’s a start, but I will make more to make sure we continue to be the best in the world. Do you know that, 7, 8 years ago, trying to find a court was not easy, the clubs used to have only 5 or 6 courts and they were busy all the time. So I decided to make a facility with 19 courts, get good players to come and play here, to organise tournaments.

“We started with a local event, then we have the Men Platinium then the Women, and we intend to do many, many more. Our dream would be to organise the World Championships."

Yes, passion is the motor as well for our CEO, Mohamed Raef, keeping an eye on everything and everybody, always available, polite, respectful and efficient, he has done an immense work for the club. Probably his best move was to recruit Ashraf Hanafi as Squash Director and Head of Performance Director for his club.

When you look at "Passion for Squash" in the dictionary, it says "see Ashraf Hanafi"...

Who is Ashraf? Ashraf is a coach, one of the most prestigious in Egypt, all the greatest players have worked with him. Please take a few seconds to glance at the article I wrote in 2013 about him, you will be amazed by the names on his hall of fame. He also build courts – like the Sport Centre in Gouna, or Black Ball of course and many many more. He was also the coach that regained the World Team title for Egypt last year in Marseille.

And of course, he is a promoter. He worked for years in Germany and BELIEVE ME, it shows!!!! His organisation, precision and team building again, second to none. And what he has achieved in one year in terms of publicity, recruitment, influence and radiance for Black Ball is basically second to none.

The other reason of the success – ask anybody on site – was the presence of Amr Khalifa. World junior champion 2010, he was one of the keys of this event.

Working flat out, always pleasant, smiling, always available, efficient, professional, polite, ADORABLE. If I had a daughter, I would want her to marry him.

This young man is an asset to any organisation that would employ him, and squash is truly and utterly lucky to have him.


The last reason of the success I feel was the Ushers. Sounds silly doesn’t it. But if you ever came to an Egyptian competition, you will have realised that keeping the viewers in general and the kids in particular to stay still during matches is not an easy task, not to say Mission Impossible!!!

On this occasion, we had an army, and I am serious, AN ARMY of young men dressed in black, who basically never watched a rally, but just kept watching the crowd/kids before, during and after the matches, ensuring the reserved areas were respected, that nobody would walk during the rallies, and also extremely important, that the players were left to breathe at the end of their matches!!!

Le Mot de la Fin

This event is setting the mark for other events in Egypt I feel. The perfect organisation will be now expected from every tournament.

I cannot express my gratitude to Black Ball team, to each and everyone of those who helped us to do our jobs, and as ever, to every single player, official, coach, organisers, for allowing me in their bubble, in their private world, allowing me to know them, to speak with them, to share with them joys and sorrows.

We have lived an incredibly intense week, squash and otherwise, with the dramas and the explosion of joy, the health scare of John Massarella, Leo Au cramping in the 5th in the second round, the early exit of Mohamed ElShorbagy and the video ref affair, the nearly world number one spot for Ali Farag, and  of course, the amazing rebirth of Karim Abdel Gawad...

Merci and Chapeau…