Just days after receiving a ‘kick in the teeth’ by rejection from the hosts of the 2020 Olympic Games in Japan, Squash will demonstrate its vitality around the world by a wide range of events this Saturday (10 October) to mark World Squash Day.
The world’s leading squash stars are lining up to support the 2015 event which is dedicated to promoting the sport and raising funds for Unicef, the world’s largest children’s organisation.
It was earlier this week that World Squash Federation (WSF) President N Ramachandran admitted that it was ‘difficult to understand’ the decision by the Tokyo 2020 Organising Committee not to recommend Squash amongst the five ‘new’ sports proposed for the 2020 Games.
From autographing a giant squash shirt, posing with WSD Selfie Boards, and donating items of memorabilia for a World Squash Day auction, the top squash professionals are proving to be magnificent role models for the sport which flourishes in almost 200 countries.
Top stars James Willstrop, England’s former world number one, and Colombia’s current world No.4 Miguel Angel Rodriguez, were the first to sign a giant T-shirt at Pontefract Squash Club in England.
The message soon spread from Manchester to Macau as England’s Laura Massaro and Hong Kong’s Max Lee posed on court with massive Selfie Boards after winning the Macau Open finals.
A number of Selfie Boards have been on the move throughout the UK, with club members posing for photographs before sending the boards on to neighbouring clubs and counties.
Also on the move for World Squash Day are an Irish group called Squash Link. Members of this urban squash programme in Dublin will be cycling around 20 squash clubs in the city on World Squash Day to raise money for Unicef. The group will be led by Derek Ryan, the celebrated former world number seven who has represented Ireland on more than 200 occasions.
A similar project in Scotland will see Grampian Squash enthusiasts pedalling from match to match at seven clubs.
In the USA, organisers of the current US Open have pledged a percentage of ticket sales on Saturday to Unicef.
The recently-formed New York Public Squash action group, who are planning to build free-to-use public courts in the parks of the Big Apple, are also pledging to hold joint fund-raising activities for Unicef.
A worldwide video challenge was launched by former tour professional Lauren Selby, now coaching in Essex, England with the Off The Wall Academy. She was filmed hitting boasts into the corner of the court, alternating forehand and backhand, and recorded an impressive 112 shots!
The challenge was taken up on the other side of the world by New Zealand professional Lance Beddoes, who recorded an impressive 140 shots in 60 seconds!
World Squash Day is also an incentive for young professionals. Aberdeen Squash Club is offering a local place in qualifying for the TRAC North of Scotland Open PSA M10 tournament which runs from March 31 to April 5 next year. The prize goes to the player who raises most money for Unicef on World Squash Day.
A World Squash Day Auction has been set up by English squash enthusiast James Roberts, who has received clothing and signed memorabilia from a host of top stars including Gregory Gaultier, Nick Matthew, Mohamed Elshorbagy, Ong Beng Hee, Nicol David, Laura Massaro, Sarah-Jane Perry and Jenny Duncalf.
One of the most spectacular items is a montage of action photographs signed by most of the players competing in the Macau Open. Fans can also bid for a shirt signed AJ Bell British Grand Prix finalists Elshorbagy and Matthew.
Bidding on eBay is already underway and finishes on October 11th, with all proceeds being donated to Unicef.
Events are taking place all over the world, with El Salvador (Central America) the first nation to sign up.
Snapshots from around the world:
Russia: Squash exhibition and coaching day in St Petersburg.
Malaysia: Partnering with numerous universities to encourage students to play squash.
Singapore: National squad players and coaches will be taking on all-comers at the Kallang National Squash Centre.
Australia: Squash Victoria is the busiest state by far, working with numerous clubs to promote the day.
Poland: The world’s biggest squash centre, the Hasta La Vista club in Wroclaw, with 28 courts (soon to be 32) is planning a massive day of action.
France: The most stunning artwork seen in this year’s collection of posters sent in from around the world features a ladies’ toilet decorated with World Squash Day artwork. The graphics were by an artist known as Can’Arti, who also produced a brilliant poster for a squash tournament in Tahiti.
Macau: Big follow-up project for World Squash Day following the successful staging of the recent Macau Open, where champions Max Lee and Laura Massaro posed with World Squash Day selfie boards minutes after the trophy presentation.
England: Numerous open days, 24-hour marathons and a two-day festival of squash and racketball at The Mote Squash Club, home of the Kent Open in Maidstone.
England Squash and Racketball are partnering with a number of leisure centres to hold events designed to attract new players to the sport.
The Surrey SRA are promoting racketball with a World Squash Day Racketball Team Shoot-Out at Wimbledon Racquets and Fitness Club.
Back in the USA, Ted Gross, publisher of the Daily Squash Report website, is planning to donate proceeds from the recently-published collaborative squash novel, The Club from Hell, to Unicef. An international team of writers took turns to write each chapter of this compelling story of crime and passion.
Event organisers are urged to donate funds to Unicef by the Just Giving page set up by World Squash Day founder Alan Thatcher.
“If all the donations go into the same pot, it makes life much easier to add up how much we will have raised for Unicef this year,” said Thatcher.
“They are the world’s largest children’s organisation and we are very keen to develop the partnership, especially at a time when so many children are in danger because of military action and mass migrations, as well as natural disasters such as floods and earthquakes.
“Unicef do an amazing job, and it is an honour and privilege to be able to help raise funds for them through the universal target of the entire global squash community, which is to get more young people on court playing this wonderful, engaging, exciting, healthy sport.”