Squash players in Lebanon are looking forward to welcoming new players to the sport on World Squash Day.
Last week, national coach Zafer Kabbara held some special indoor and outdoor training sessions to celebrate the landmark date that highlighted 100 Days To Go before the big event on October 9th.
In an interview with Squash Mad founder Alan Thatcher, Zafer talks about the huge energy being put into growing squash in a country that faces huge economic and political upheaval.
Despite that background, the Lebanese squash community always rises to the occasion on World Squash Day, with Zafer a popular driving force.
Q: Hello Zafer. First of all, I want to thank you for your support of World Squash Day down the years and for your phenomenal work in promoting squash in Lebanon. How has your squash community managed during the past year? Have your courts been closed because of Covid?
Zafer: “Our community tried to keep the sport going while taking all the safety measures needed to ensure the safety of our players, but 80% of players stopped playing during the pandemic. And yes, 90% of squash courts across Lebanon closed because of COVID-19.”
Q: How many facilities have squash courts in Lebanon? How many courts are at each one?
Zafer: We have 15 facilities that have squash courts in Lebanon, and each one has one or two courts in it.
Q: How about your own involvement in squash? How long have you been playing and where did you start?
Zafer: I began my professional career as a national player and now I’m the head coach of the Lebanese national team, squash instructor at the University of Balamand and Board member of the Lebanese and Arab squash federations. I started playing squash in Beirut in 1995 at the age of 23. I’ve been playing for over 25 years.
Q: What’s your best-ever personal result in squash … on or off the court?!
Zafer: I believe my best ever personal result in squash is that I promoted the game in Lebanon and I made it accessible for many athletes who wanted to play squash, and also, I finished 3rd in the international master’s championship in Egypt, for the group age of over 45.
Q: What can you tell us about the leading squash players in Lebanon?
Zafer: I’ve seen so many talented squash players here in Lebanon, and I encouraged them to play outside of Lebanon to showcase their talents, and be part of the international squash community.
Q: What competitions do you hold each year?
Zafer: There are six competitions held in different clubs here in Lebanon, for different age groups, and at the end of the year we organise the Lebanese squash championship and invite all the players to participate.
Q: As for development projects, what do you have in the pipeline for the future to grow squash in Lebanon? Are any schools or community projects in place?
Zafer: After two years of this pandemic, and with the economic crisis we have here in Lebanon, we are out of any development projects. Before that we were focused on getting school and university students more involved in squash.
Q: What coaching is available?
Zafer: There are eight coaches with a lot of experience in squash. They are all ex-players.
Q: Who are the main sponsors of squash in Lebanon?
Zafer: There is no main sponsor here for the sport here in Lebanon.
Q: Were any squash facilities damaged by the huge explosion in Beirut harbour in August last year?
Zafer: Luckily, none of the squash facilities were damaged by the explosion that happened in Beirut, because most of the squash facilities are outside Beirut, and the one in Beirut is underground.
Q: As I mentioned earlier, you have been great supporters of World Squash Day down the years. With the game aiming to bounce back after the effects of Covid, what plans do you have to put the fun back into squash in Lebanon on World Squash Day this year?
Zafer: I have plans to hold outside activities related to squash before the actual competitive games that will be taking place on the court, like cardio and fitness exercises. And I want to invite the older generation of squash players, who are over the age of 60, to be part of this upcoming World Squash Day.