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Yet another heartbreak

Pakistan came close to regaining the world junior title in Namibia but fell yet against their nemesis Egypt in the final

Yet another heartbreak
Tayyab Aslam (left) and Syed Hamzah Shah Bukhari.

For the third time in a row Egypt shattered Pakistan’s dream of regaining the world junior squash title. Last Thursday, four-time champions Pakistan took another shot at the crown but were blanked by the superior Egyptians 2-0 in a bruising finale held at the Wanderers Sports Club in Windhoek, the capital of Namibia.

In a happening week for Pakistan sports when the country celebrated a surprise series victory of the national football team against old rivals India in Bangalore, the country’s squash colts came agonisingly close to winning world junior title for the first time since 2008.

Pakistan rode roughshod over their rivals in the WSF Men’s World Junior Team Squash Championship 2014 as they reached the title clash with an enviable ease. In what was the sixth successive final between the world’s two powerhouse squash nations, the second seeded Pakistan gave favourites Egypt a run for their money.

But in the end it were the better-prepared Egyptians who retained the prestigious title to equal the five-title record of Australia, the event’s first champions in 1980. That year, the Aussies edged Pakistan in the final to win the inaugural tournament.

It was Egypt’s number one Omar Elatmas who put the defending champions into the driving seat with a 12-10, 12-10, 6-11, 11-8 victory in 74 minutes over Tayyab Aslam. It was a repeat of the 18-year-old from Cairo’s quarter-final upset over the top Pakistani junior in the preceding world individual championship — which ultimately led to Elatmas reaching the final, as a 9/16 seed. With resounding cheers from the Egyptian bench, second string Youssef Aboul-Makarim then twice repelled fightbacks by Syed Ali Mujtaba Shah Bokhari to beat his Pakistan opponent 11-7, 9-11, 11-3, 7-11, 11-9 in 62 minutes to clinch Egypt’s historic 2-0 triumph.

Pakistan first won the title in 1980 and added five more. Their fifth and last crown came in 2008 when they blanked Egypt 2-0 in the final.

Egypt’s five titles (1994, 2006, 2010 and 2012) from 13 tournaments match the record set by Australia – the first to win five titles in 1980, 1984, 1986, 1988 and 1992. They have outclassed rivals Pakistan, who had previously won four titles (1982, 2002, 2004 and 2008) in 17 appearances, and England, who won in 1990, 1996, 1998 and 2000. Both teams were poised to claim a record-equalling fifth title — favourites Egypt bidding to become the first nation since England in 2000 to win three titles in a row.

In the semifinals, Egypt beat Spain 2-0, but were stretched to the limit by the sixth seeds who were making their first ever appearance in the event’s semi-finals.

Top string Omar Elatmas put the defending champions ahead with a 10-12, 12-10, 11-4, 11-5 victory over Edmon Lopez Moller.

Egypt’s No3 Karim El Hammamy then grinded out a 10-12, 11-6, 11-7, 10-12, 11-6 win in 85 minutes against the determined Bernat Jaume in a match which was suspended for about 15 minutes after the Spaniard sustained a cut below his right knee.

Earlier, 2008 champions Pakistan ended Malaysia’s impressive run in the championship, beating the fifth seeds 2-0. The Malaysian team upset third seeds England in the previous round, denying the four-time champions a place in the last four for the first time in the 34-year history of the championship.

Pakistan number one Tayyab Aslam the way with an 11-5, 5-11, 11-6, 11-8 win over Mohd Syafiq Kamal before third string Muhammad Asim Khan wrapped up his country’s tenth appearance in the final by defeating Darren Chan 11-5, 11-7, 11-9.

Pakistan were well aware that their chances of upsetting Egypt were not bright.

“It’s going to be a tough final against Egypt,” Pakistan coach Gogi Alauddin said ahead of the title clash. “But I am looking forward to it as I know that my boys have big hearts and can handle the pressure,” added the former world No3.

Gogi’s charges did show a big heart in the finale but in the end they fell short of skills and stamina.

Bilal Hussain

Bilal Hussain
The author may be contacted at [email protected]

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