OPINION : Malcolm on the Six Nations

Malcolm on the Six Nations

Watching England play Wales in the Six Nations Rugby was depressing.

The match, with an ostentatious and incompetent referee was all about decisions and penalties, which is what football is all about without any correction or reference to fair play from the commentators.

Squash requires many decisions in the confined space in which it is played.

I appeal to all players, especially the World’s leading players to protect the image of the game and the example it sets to younger players.

It is clear football crowds don’t object to the appalling behaviour of the players at professional level and it may be I am old-fashioned, but I hope there are some that believe that football devalues sporting standards.

Hopefully Squash can set an example.

Malcolm Willstrop

Malcolm on Mostafa

If Mostafa Asal represents the future of squash, which is what he appears to believe, then I am glad I am nearer the end than the beginning of my life in the game, says Malcolm Willstrop.

I was appalled at his behaviour on court when I first saw him play in Chicago, and it seems there has been no improvement as he has risen in the world rankings.

Aligning with the deplorable game of football, which condones cheating, fouling and arguing with and disrespect of officials, as well as the puerile behaviour of managers who would be better off confined to the stands, proves how misguided he is.

If sport has any value – and I spend a lot of my time with children – then it is in the values it holds for them : honesty, fair play, respect and modesty.

Squash has been well served by its great players : Jahangir Khan, Jonah Barrington, Geoff Hunt, Peter Nicol, Sarah Fitzgerald, Amr Shabana, Ramy Ashour and modern day Ali Farag, Nour el Sherbini, Raneem el Weleily. So perhaps Mostafa should take a look at them.

He will, no doubt, have his supporters, but I hope there are some who prefer the sportsmen and women I respect and the values I have tried to instil in the players and children I coach.

Even though I am nearer the end than the beginning, sorry to disappoint his supporters, but I am as active as ever coaching and am blessed to have some talented and likeable players to work with.

Malcolm Willstrop

What do YOU think : Put your thoughts in the comments below …



  1. Stick to coaching. Analyzing other people’s behavior is not your expertise. His arrogance can easily be interpreted as passion by others. Don’t like someone? Usually people just keep quiet and go about their business. Do you really think you voicing out your displeasure online is going to make him change to your liking? You are no different than others who think their non expert opinion matters just because they have a medium to voice out.

  2. Have to agree with Malc on this…he could be an outstanding player but focus will undoubtedly end up being on his court antics and disrespectful celebrations etc

  3. I have always been a great admirer of Malcolm Willstrop and he is the first person that I would pick to have dinner and a beer with and talk about squash. but my admiration has grown to another level after reading his comments about Asal.
    I have played and loved this sport for almost fifty years and have been fortunate enough to have met some of the greats. I love the sport because for the most part the players do not have the massive egos of tennis players or golfers. they are usually approachable and friendly and most importantly of all, most of them DO NOT CHEAT.

    Most of all I love watching the players who do their best to play the ball instead of trying to manufacture a let or a stroke, who own up when they hit a double bounce or a double hit. I hate watching players who continually cheat and most of all I hate it when the commentators call it being street-wise or some other name but they actually appear to admire or condone it. they should have the guts to name and shame the player and call it for what it is, CHEATING.

    Gaultier is obviously a great player but in my opinion he is one of the worst offenders at fishing, manufacturing a let or stroke and for manipulating the refs. I also note that a lot of the time when he looks like he is going to lose he starts limping of feigning some kind of injury instead of being able to admit his opponent played better on the day. so I rarely enjoy his matches unless he is losing. I remember sitting courtside in HONG KONG watching him play Mosaad and it was one of the worst matches I have ever seen as the behaviour of both payers was absolutely disgusting. then the next match on court was Stuart Boswell against Thierry Lincou and that was such a contrast, both players playing hard but fair and showing respect to each other and the ref. It was just so enjoyable to watch after the previous debacle.

    so this is why I admire Malcolm so much, he is not afraid to call it as he sees it and call a spade a spade without mincing his words or being afraid of causing offence. He obviously loves the sport as much as I do and is not afraid to speak out to protect it’s future.

    players need to realise that they are fortunate to be able to make a living playing a sport rather than sitting behind a desk all day. they should come on court with a smile instead of a frown. they should be able to congratulate an opponent for playing a great shot rather than scowling at them. that is why I love watching Ali Farag but not Diego Elias as all Elias seems to do is whinge and moan about everything that goes against him and always looks like he is sucking on a particularly bitter lemon.

    so keep it up Malcolm, the sport needs more people like you who value integrity and sportsmanship over cheating.

  4. 100% Agree with Malcolm, all that jumping about court acting the fool, it’s disrespectful to his opponent and non squash watchers will wonder what on earth this kid is doing, keep it professional and respectful Mustafa, our sport is about 2 sportsman or women in a confined space, show skills not antics, get on and play squash not playing the fool …..

  5. Do not be too quick to judge; he is a young man who will no doubt learn from the impact he has on the game, & will also realise, particularly as he comes under greater scrutiny, that he has wider responsibilities. He will be surrounded by people who will advise & guide him in the right direction. Sport is littered with examples of players whose behaviour, when young, has not met expectations, but in most cases they mature.

  6. The Fist Pump
    Fair or Foul?
    I am Old School. I am a sensitive, emotionless person. I cry easily but I often blanket my joy and happiness. Somehow, being brought up under colonial parenting and schooling, the “stiff-upper lip” stuff has been painted tightly over my sporting face. “Play up, Play up and play the game” and “Not whether you won or lost, but how you played the game” stuff

    Squash buddy , Neale Emslie and I have known each other since schooldays, played each other first when were at opposing universities, and have since then probably played each about 500 times. Of those, 95% have probably been five-setters, and the win-loss ratio hovers around 51 – 49% depending on good or bad years. Neale is a good man. Principled, patient and caring. Slow to anger. A sportsman to his fingertips. A lovers of all sports.

    But perform a Fist Pump in his presence, and his wrath unravels. You will endure eternal strife!!

    The other day, Corona-virus lock-downed, I watched a recording of that epic Gregory Gaultier – Mohammed El Shorbagy, JP Morgan semi-final encounter. While I admired and loved watching the subtle changes of pace, the elastic retrieving, the brutal scything skills of that cliff-hanger, my old school rules pulled at my conscience, my stomach turned, as I watched the French General, fist-pump, hip thrust and conduct the crowd in a display of gamesmanship that bordered on….let me not say it. I quivered at Gaultier’s performance. Is this what players who I am coaching, are watching? Will they want to imitate this behavior? Had Bushbuck , as he is affectionately called…( though he moves more like a giraffe) , witnessed the drama, we would have had to call in the medical teams and ambulances, as his heart rate would have risen, his anger would have boiled into revulsion as Gaultier took fist-pumping and gamesmanship to the Nth degree.

    Was this the quietly-spoken man who I had met at the World Coaches Conference in Poland some years ago? Was this the pleasant man who had taken us through an amazingly skilled practice session? What schizophrenic competitive cloaks, fall over a person once enclosed in that claustrophobic squash courted cell?

    Having said that, was this display, also not an amazing display of guts, of using the brain, and experience to upset the rhythm of the opponent, just within the rules. Did he not cleverly upset Shorbagy’s calmed mind, and suck him into rushed over-reaction. Is this not what a coach wants? That his players be internally, physically and mentally tough, resilient and single-minded

    I am also not a great match-play player. In friendlies, frequently, I will beat folk supposedly much better than me. But in tight league, or tournament matches, the tension becomes too much, and frequently, I crumble. As a coach, I have read up and spent hours discussing notes on sport psychology, and breathing, and meditation, and playing point-for-point, and, reducing the score to 0-0 in my mind, and…

    And I wondered? If I wanted to win a bit more often. Maybe I should be more emotional. Maybe, I should let it all hang out. Watch all the top sports and there will always be that out-pouring of emotion when players win a big point, score a goal, make that massive putt. With so much pressure hanging on the result of matches these days, the millions of TV viewers, the press build- ups, the knowledge that this win could catapult you up the rankings, roll in lots more money… Can you blame our top sportsmen? Even Roger Federer, probably the epitome of calm, cool and collected shows visible signs of internal pleasure, dare I say, mini fist-pumps.

    I am a non-golfer. I play in corporate days, so I play terrible golf on lots of beautiful courses. My really good shots are few and far between. And occasionally, very occasionally, I clutch a big putt. The ball wanders, first quickly, and then lazily, 10 meters later, it slips into the hole. And then I do. I FIST-PUMP. I am the man. For the moment.

    Sadly, invariably, my next drive, skewers westwards, and I am brought back to reality of the rough life of golf

    I enjoy my squash, even if I do lose. The friends I make through my sport are important to me. While I understand that that competitive streak maybe a lot stronger in others than in me, I will leave fist-pumping to those who are seriously under pressure. Let those who have the mental strength to control their emotions, and re-focus, after a winning rally dally in fist-pumping fun. And I will continue to persuade my pupils that whether they win or lose, it is more important how they play the game.