Nick Matthew column: Other countries must keep up with the pace Egypt have set

Mohamed Elshorbagy
Mohamed Elshorbagy

It might come as a surprise to people who don’t regularly follow the sport but Egypt have turned themselves into the leading country in world squash.

Egypt’s dominance at the top of the men’s game is there for everybody to see. Five of the world’s top 10 players are Egyptian.

They’ve got four-time world champion Amr Shabana who is the oldest man on tour but is still going strong. He was world number one for three years in a row.

Egypt’s depth is so strong.They have also got current World No 1 Mohamed Elshorbagy, Ramy Ashour, Tarek Momen and Omar Mosaad.

It used to be Pakistan and Australia who were the dominant force in world squash but Egypt have really taken over that mantle.

The great Ahmed Barada was a global superstar and everybody flocked to support him. He certainly inspired the next generation of players.

Along with football, squash is now one of the biggest sports in Egypt. They just have a conveyor belt of talent and have taken over squash in the last decade, especially on a junior level. I have presented the prizes in the last two or three years in the British Junior Open, which has appeared in Sheffield, and it feels like 90% of the prizes I hand out are to Egyptian players.

They have such a cut throat system. Egypt’s mentality is unless you are winning, you are not good enough. You could be playing to an unbelievable standard but it really is dog eat dog.

At a very young age, they learn how to be street fighters and to become mentally tough. They also develop physically very quickly so that’s why you get so many graduating to the top of the senior game.

England and Egypt on the world tour have developed a big rivalry over the past few years. In the last two men’s teams championships, which is the sport’s equivalent of a World Cup, England won the last one and Egypt won it the time before. It has really been back and forth but the problem is the average age in their squad is much younger than ours so we need players to come through to keep challenging them.

There is a danger that the world rankings will be overrun by Egyptians. It is more interesting when other countries play each other so it’s up to the other countries to keep up with the pace they have set. There is really only England who have challenged in terms of depth at the top of the game.