Fram Gommendy reports on the first two days of the CIB PSA Finals, including the Wedding of the Year and the PSA Awards …
As a few amongst you know, I try and spend as much time as possible in my flat in Maadi, Cairo, from where I see both the Nile and three sets of Pyramids, I kid you not.
I arrived there on Tuesday night, walked on Road 9, a bit like Boulevard St Germain in Paris, and enjoyed Eid with my friends in Mokattam, Cairo. Then on Friday, I took a taxi to the Novotel in the 6th October, quite a drive from Maadi, a bit like going from the Isle of Dogs to Weybridge really!
Unpacked, settled, and off I went to the Wedding on the Year….
Karim & Farah
I was lucky enough to be invited to former world number one and world champ Karim Abdel Gawad to the lovely adorable beautiful Farah Bendary at the Hilton in Heliopolis, Cairo.
It was my first Egyptian wedding. Although I was invited to Ali Farag & Nour El Tayeb’s the passing of Ali’s grandmother sadly transformed the wedding into a funeral, the wedding postponed to when I couldn’t be in Cairo, and also to Omneya’s – I was flying off that same day!
It is very different from the French weddings, and I was amazed how fit the bride and groom must be as they just danced and danced and danced for literally hours on end! Ah, being young again…
The whole of the Egyptian Squash family was present and I felt blessed to be invited and to share that very special moment with Karim and his family.
Ok, I couldn’t stay as long as I wanted, as Tamer Mamdouh who was kind enough to drive me there and back, working with Karim Darwish on the World Tour Finals, had to go back to the glasscourt at 2am, so we had to leave much too early for my liking!
But I truly and utterly loved my time there, I feel honoured and re-energised by that evening…
Day Zero and PSA Awards
After a little breakfast, Steve Cubbins (our photographer/webmaster as I’m sure you know) went for a stroll to the glasscourt, and were amazed once again by what Wadi Degla Squash Director and former number one Karim Darwish achieved in just six weeks.
The court looks absolutely superb and in a great location as well.
Oh, and we’ll have plenty of support from the Wadi Degla juniors that will help the whole week the event, bless them.
After that, we went to try and find some basics for Cubs as he barely made it to his connecting flight in Istanbul, while his luggage – like PSA Tommy Berden’s – didn’t make it! And so we walked in that stunning endless Mall of Arabia… So many shops, for all purses, sizes, shapes… Strongly recommend it!
Six o’clock, onto the buses that took us back to Mena House – where we stayed for the 2016 Al-Ahram. The specificity of that hotel is that it’s the closest hotel to the Giza Pyramids and the view is quite incredible.
Legend Shabana was here…
Well, as ever, the Legend was as discrete at it comes. I didn’t see him arriving, I saw him on the stage to give the Spirit Awards to Raneem and Ali, then disappeared again…
I start to wonder if it was not a hologram of him that graced us with his presence!!!
One for the future
If the young player award for the ladies went to Nouran Gohar – who confirmed her status this year by winning the British Open, it was nice to see Golden Boy Youssef Ibrahim – student in Princeton – being rewarded with the male version of that great award.
His whole family, mum dad and brother Karim were present and were very very proud, as they should be!
The next award is for the Men’s Young Player of the Year Award.
— PSA World Tour (@PSAWorldTour) June 8, 2019
Interesting again to listen to what the players said during awards.
Ali Farag for example, thanked his parents Mona and Amr for the way they raised and educated him when he got his spirit of squash award.
Then his brother Wael for supporting him and making believing in his chances when 5 years ago, when loads were telling him that he was too old to try and make it to the top when he got the Player of the Year award.
On top of the CIB Finals evening, there were two other weddings happening on site and funnily enough, Ali’s parents, were invited to one of them! So they discretely came to our do, watched their son win two awards, and slid off to their wedding as the meal started!
Also, it breaks your heart – even if she said it with a smile – to hear Nour El Tayeb “begging” Nour El Sherbini to “let her have one world title” – their rivalry going back to the juniors…
Lost in translation, Raneem made us all smile when she said that “Nour El Sherbini is a lovely girl when you got to know her”…
It could have been misinterpreted, so let me tell you what Raneem said about her friend in an interview: “she is the purest soul I ever met”. There. Sorted.
A great line from PSA CEO Alex Gough as he followed Karim Darwish opening the ceremony. “I could tell you that we were great pals, and that we really liked each other. Truth is, we absolutely hated each other and we hated playing each other. But that didn’t take anything away from the huge respect we had for each other and how impressed I am by what Karim has achieved this time yet again.”
Yet again, yes, as Karim already managed to organise the Women’s World in Wadi Degla in what, 2 months, when Malaysia couldn’t hold their bid in 2014. Chapeau, Karim, truly.
Tim Garner crowned
Our seventh award is for Services to Squash – recognising the contribution of an individual to the game.
— PSA World Tour (@PSAWorldTour) June 8, 2019
Oh my Lord PSA Tour Director Tim Garner’s face when he realised that the special award was not going to go to Nicol David but to himself. “I got ambushed,” commented the shy and discrete young man.
I have no fear saying that he is the probably the most appreciated member of PSA team. For years, Tim has been serving Squash, BSPA, Eventis, Canary Wharf, and numerous events before joining the PSA team a few years ago.
“Earlier this year I needed a rest from the Tour, so I went and climbed the Kilimanjaro,” he smiled after Jenny Duncalf, our lovely MC, prompted him to talk about it. He is not someone that would boast about such an exploit. “It meant no-one could call me for four days!” he joked. Oh, he also earned almost £1,000 for the PSA Foundation in the process…
Tim is hard working, discrete, gentle, competent, reliable, efficient, consistent and he makes a good darn cup of tea. And he is a true friend. The best awardee in my book tonight – no offence to anybody.
A thought for Mohamed Shorbagy
Although Mohamed won numerous titles this year, he’ll never forget March as on the 1st, he lost his world number one spot, and on the 2nd, his world title. And tonight, not only he had to watch Ali take the biggest awards, Frenchman Masotti take the shot of the year, and to add insult to injury, the videos seemed to systematically show rallies where he got his butt kicked – by Diego in particular!!!
Food for thought
Interesting to note that the World number Ones won both Player of the Year Award, along with the Spirit of Squash Award… It is the third year in a row that El Welily has taken the honour, while Farag claims the men’s award for the third time in four years.
If I was a coach, I would hammer that fact to my players: you don’t have to be mean, cheat, block to win matches, titles or awards… You can be a good guy (gal) and still take it all.
As we say in French, “je pose ça là”. “Think about it”.
May the Games begin…