Biased decisions in National Women Squash hurt players

Pakistan Squash Federation (PSF) doesn't bother to appoint any referee for the Senior National Women Squash Championship played at Jansher Khan Squash Complex Abbottabad which concluded on April 9.

Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Squash Association (KPKSA) was the host of the event in which only nine girls including Zoya Khalid, Riffat Khan, Saima Shaukat, Roshna Mahboob, Amna Latif, Noor Fatima, Roma Yousaf and Madina Zafar participated while top female players such as Sammer Anjum, Sadia Gul, Monisa, Zahab Khan, Habiba Khan, Faiza and Ayesha Zafar stayed away from it.

Talking with The Nation, inside sources, who were present at the venue, told this scribe that it seemed it was not a national level event but an ordinary practice session between the players. There was not even a single referee hired by the association to conduct free and impartial refereeing. Girls after playing their matches had to conduct the refereeing duties in other matches. Saima and Zoya conducted several matches as referees while another male player Bilal Zakir also performed the duties of the chair referee. When this scribe contacted KPKSA president Qamar Zaman to seek his viewpoint on this matter, he replied: “The PSA encourages players to perform duties as referees to give them exposure.”

The sources said Pakistan squash team head coach Jamshed Gul was performing the duty of tournament referee which seemed very dubious and partial due to which Zoya Khalid and Roshna Mahboob qualified for the final. The real drama started in the final where Zoya Khalid managed to win the championship but not without a twist in the tail. Zoya got injured during the match, when she twisted her wrist, she was finding it really hard to continue the match, but all of a sudden chair, referee Jamshed Gul approached her and urged her to continue the match. It was not his duty to approach any player as he was not only the head of the referees but also the national team coach. He should have treated the players with just instead of coming out for all-out support of one certain player.

“It was a pathetic condition of the entire event that instead of using proper score sheets for the matches, school going kids register pages were used to compile match scores. The semifinal and final matches were covered on the same page, with semi-final results being compiled on the front side while the final result was compiled on the backside of the page,” the sources added.

Roshna could have easily won the match, first through her brilliant game, secondly when Zoya got injured, third when she deserved a clear-cut stroke on the match ball but referee Jamshed Gul instead of awarding the stroke to Roshna, declared the ball as let, a call which cost Roshna the title. All these things were done right under the nose of PSF secretary Abdul Wahab Marwat who was present at the venue.

The sources said Roshna was in tremendous touch as she won the first game 11-7, despite being given a very harsh treatment by the referee. She lost the second game 5-11, but to her great credit, she kept her composure and won the third game 11-7. Zoya then managed to win the fourth game 11-8 to take the match into fifth and deciding game.

Both girls were matching each other through point to point and were not ready to hand over the initiative to other. At that point, Zoya suddenly lost her balance and badly hurt her wrist. The referee interfered at that moment and started to buck up Zoya and finally succeeding in restarting the match, the title was almost in the grasp of Roshna, when the referee ruled the deciding ball as let, the decision cost Roshna the title as Zoya took advantage from the lucky life line provided to her by Jamshed Gul and she went on to take the game 12-10, thus winning the title 3-2.

Although Roshna went down fighting, but actually she won many hearts and the people present on the occasion described her worthy champion who was deprived of the tile deliberately by the referee, reasons best known to him.

It is the duty of the association and the federation to ensure the tournament should be conducted in lines with international standards as there must be proper referees and score sheets. The favouritism also be discouraged in the tournament as such favours provided by the officials can cost the country dearly and deprive it of future title hopes.

Time is ripe the PSF must act in the best interest of the game and players ensuring these things should not repeat in future, as biased refereeing is order of the day. Now it is the time when federation must stamp out authority and ensure free and fair conducting of championships.

Jamshed should concentrate on preparing the players for the all-important Asian Senior Individual Squash Championship, with both male and female categories. The championship will also signal the return of international squash to Pakistan so the PSF must fully concentrate on the given task and start full fledge training camp in Islamabad and also acquire the services of international standard coach Faheem Gul.