|Black Ball, a HUGE
“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.
Black Ball CEO Mohamed Raef
The reasons of success:
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.
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.
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!!!
Le Mot de la Fin
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.