Banned Again!

posted in: Life On Tour, Performance | 0

Mostafa Asal has been banned – again!

This third ban for the ex-World No.1 sees him suspended from tournaments for 12 weeks. He is not eligible to compete on the PSA until 10th October 2023.

This is absolutely unprecedented (in any sport) for a 22-year-old to be on his third tour ban already – and most would say it is totally justified.

There are of-course, several indignant defenders of Mostafa who feel he is hugely victimised, with conspiracies emerging from Mostafa’s father targeting Karim Darwish, Egyptian Squash and The PSA, claiming they are in cahoots together to prevent him from becoming World No.1 again, which seem a little outrageous to say the least!

Here’s a quick thought about it all:

Sports fans love to see an exceptionally gifted youngster who has the ability to win major titles at a very young age, and ‘upset the apple cart’, endanger the status quo of hierarchy. Whether it’s seeing a young Ronaldo take the Premiership by storm, or seeing a 19-year-old Federer beat Sampras at Wimbledon which many thought was impossible, or witnessing Michael Phelps bagging 6 Olympic gold medals when he was only 19… and we all loved Tiger bursting onto the golf scene. This is what people want. People love to see greatness but we also love to see fearless youngsters beating the greats. We’ve recently revelled in this very concept when Alcaraz beat the unbeatable Djokovic in the Wimbledon final – it was beyond exciting – thinking about a potential rivalry over the next few years as Novak tries to win a few more majors before he inevitably succumbs to age, and thinking about potential records that could one day be broken by the youngster. Mostafa Asal should be someone we all love, like when teenage Ramy came along and challenged the old-guard of Thierry Lincou and David Palmer. Absolutely everyone loved Ramy.

My personal view would be that I want to like Asal. The guy is absolutely amazing. His power, technique, skill levels and his speed are all phenomenal. I watch him and find it hard to imagine being as good as him – BUT, he makes it very hard to love him like we want to. There have been too many matches which became difficult to watch. Too many matches with too many decisions.

The Asal defenders would claim that other players have manipulated the refs during matches against Asal, and have actually caused more deliberate traffic issues than Asal has. Diego Elias has particularly come under a lot of scrutiny and criticism.

I have watched the majority of Mostafa’s matches, and I do actually agree he has been victimised at certain points in several matches. There have definitely been obvious decisions go against him because of his reputation, and very favourable decisions given to his opponent. I have seen Diego deliberately block Asal and also ask for lets when he was nowhere near the ball, and then be granted a let, which if it were the other way around, it would have not been a let.

But – surely the tell tale sign that Mostafa is more than likely to blame, is that almost every single match he plays, whoever the opponent, there are traffic issues; there are difficult refereeing decisions to be made; there is a lot of contact; and there is controversy. The Asal supporters would say Diego is just as bad, if not worse than Asal, but Diego doesn’t get into nasty matches against anyone else, as is the case with Joel Makin or Mazen Hesham too, who have also been accused by the Mostafa clan. It seems Asal brings out the worst in the people he plays. I think it’s probable that he backs them in to a corner where they have to fight and scrap if they are going to win. Basically, he often makes his opponents choose to fight dirty back. He is doing it to them so they feel it’s the only way to level the playing field.

Of course, it is possible not to fight fire with fire when playing Asal. Ali Farag, Mohamed ElShorbagy and Paul Coll have not stooped to anything below their usual high mortal standards in order to beat him. There have certainly been times when Paul Coll will have been fighting his instincts not to lower himself to unsavoury tactics when playing Mostafa, because Paul has been visibly frustrated by many of Asal’s antics, on more than one occasion. So, it is possible for an Asal match not to turn into an ugly spectacle where both players are trying to con the referee, which then leads back to some blame on both parties where there’s been an unacceptably aggressive contest.

The answer – I honestly don’t know. Mostafa Asal undoubtedly has to cut out his antics and get on with playing his squash – which we can all agree is positively spellbinding at times, with quality we’ve rarely seen in our sport. If he doesn’t make an obvious change soon he will be permanently removed from our sport forever as he cannot keep getting banned for weeks at a time – The PSA will be forced to take much more severe action. I think his U-turn in behaviour needs to be so ridiculously obvious, that he’s almost too nice at times, but at least it will show a willingness to change – which I think is all squash fans want. Holding an adamant position of accepting no blame, which is his current response, is simply not good enough.

I say again, squash fans want people of Asal’s ability in the sport, and I’m sure he will be easily forgiven if he displays a willingness to change – so… please Mostafa, just show the squash World that you are trying, you can win without any untoward antics and without any deliberately extreme opponent hindering movements, otherwise you will never fulfil your true potential.