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Squash Blossoming in Innovative Iran

In Iran, the rapid development of squash infrastructure continues, as the Squash Federation of Iran brings the sport to the community with a combination of traditional glass and outdoor courts.

Dr. Sajjadi (centre) presides over the ribbon cutting ceremony. Dr. Soleimani stands to the far right.

In Iran’s capital, Tehran, a brand new squash complex has opened after seven months of construction, under the direction of the Squash Federation and with investment from the private sector.

The complex sits under the dramatic Milad Tower and was opened by Federation President Dr. Masoud Soleimani, and attended by Dr. Seyed Hamid Sajjadi, Minister of Sport and Youths. The complex will serve as a major boost to squash, squash 57, and other racket sports in the region and includes six full squash courts, a racketball court, and a padel court.

“These courts are world standard,” said Ms. N. Kshefi, one of the private investors in the project, while a youth player praised the way the courts played.

Dr. Soleimani (centre-right) answers questions and poses for photographs by the court.

The complex will serve the local community, as well as providing a hub for Tehran’s most promising young talent.

“Our aim is to select talents among children of 5 years of age and upwards for squash and racket ball and padel,” explained national squash coach Abdolreza Kashefi.

Sajjadi added that, as a keen squash player, he was grateful to the private investors and was extremely impressed by the complex.

Over 1,000 miles away from Tehran, in Iran’s Sistan Baluchistan province, the country’s youth are being introduced to squash thanks to an innovative three wall squash programme.

Three wall squash, played outdoors and with a larger, lighter ball, is on its way to becoming the signature sport of Sistan Baluchistan, as the scheme aims to build 100 outdoor courts in the villages scattered around the largely rural province.

Explaining the scheme, Masoud Ziaeddini, the federation’s National Teams Head Coach and Director Of International Affairs, says that the combination of the lack of existing squash infrastructure, the low cost of outdoor courts, and a dry climate, makes the province the ideal place to be the home of outdoor squash.

With a dry climate, a sport-loving population, and limited existing squash infrastructure, Sistan Baluchistan Province is well suited to three wall squash.

The province was picked because the provincial capital, Zahedan, despite a population of over half a million, had just two usable traditional courts, meaning that many children in the province had no opportunity to experience the sport.

Ziaeddini explains that the strategy of SFI is to provide such children with an introduction to the sport, so that they develop lifelong passion for the game. “Anyone who hits just one shot with squash racket and squash ball, he or she will be in love with squash, so we have tried to just put them in a situation of playing squash,” he says.

He adds: “Many of kids we are reaching knew nothing about squash before we started, because squash is really new in their village. Many had no idea about squash and only knew the name, but we know that anyone who tries squash even once, will be in love with squash.”

Zahedan, capital of Sistan Baluchistan Province, credit: Masoud Sheikh Veisi

Key to getting children that first taste of squash has been increasing the accessibility of the sport. While traditional courts cost several thousand dollars to build, three wall courts cost around $700USD. This has allowed Iran’s authorities to rapidly build a number of courts in the villages surrounding the provincial capital of Zahedan. 

Ziaeddini explains that research by the Squash Federation of Iran suggests that each court may introduce an average of 25 new players to the sport, and that they hope to see a future national champion from the 2,500 new squash players that will come from Sistan Baluchistan.

Future champions? A group of children sit by the court and football pitch, waiting for their turn on court.

While squash is some way behind Iran’s most popular sport, football, in terms of participation, the two sports are able to coexist. Ziaeddini explains that rather than seeking to compete with football, many of the villages have utilised the sport’s popularity to appeal to potential squash players.

He says: “We built the first court next to a football ground, and the kids really liked that. They went from just playing football, to playing squash while they are waiting for the pitch [to be vacated]. Now, more and more come whenever they are playing football, or after training, and some of them are skipping football because they are staying on the squash court.”

Just over two months into the project and the results are starting to show. Close to 70 courts have  been built and 65 junior players took part in a three wall championship last month.

The rapid success of the squash courts has also seen heightened interest from officials in other provinces, and within the next year an estimated 300 three wall squash courts will be built across Iran.

Children in Sistan Baluchistan have taken enthusiastically to the sport.

Ziaeddini admits that the enthusiasm of the Iranian youth surprised even him. “It’s just really good, and I didn’t expect that so many would be in love with squash. They really like the project, they really like the squash courts and they’re always asking the coaches when the next session is and if they can come more! It’s really beautiful,” he says.

When asked why the courts have captured the imagination of the country, Ziaeddini’s answer is simple: squash, in any form, is such an incredible sport that if you give people the opportunity to play, they will take to it keenly.

He concludes: “In my opinion, squash is more than just the sport, it’s beyond the physical demand. Whenever you are inside the court, you will forget any problems you have in your life.”

Find out more about squash in Iran.

The various stages of construction for a three wall court.

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