“Retiring from Squash?? I refused to accept it or speak about it. This was the hardest thing I ever had to go through; after 19 years of squash, I couldn’t play anymore.
And Now, What?
This was my purpose, my whole world was squash. It was too painful and triggering being in Egypt, I wasn’t sure what to do, or where to go, I was incredibly lost.
I knew deep down that I can’t feel like this and pretend like everything was okay. I packed my bags, and with zero plan, no money, no job, absolutely nothing, I booked a one-way ticket to Dubai to start a new life, I wanted to find out who I was if not a squash player and what exactly was my purpose.
Starting in Dubai
I had a tough first year in Dubai, juggling between 4 jobs to be able to stand on my own two feet.
Then COVID hit.
I was shocked to find out that squash was literally unheard of in Dubai
During covid, I had a lot of time to reflect on the most minor details of my life in depth. I very quickly understood that even though I had a bit more financial stability, I lacked something very important: passion. I had zero passion for any of my jobs, while as skilled as everyone around me.
It was extremely hard to stand out in corporate offices with 200+ employees. I spent a few months doing some extensive research in the market in Dubai and I was shocked to find out that squash was literally unheard of here in Dubai.
How can the UAE have more than 1,500 squash courts, and a ton of expats who love squash (British, Pakistanis, Egyptians, Indians etc.) but no squash?!
Seizing the Opportunity
Yes, there were a few coaches here and there, but completely under the radar. This was the big gap I saw here, so I took it as an opportunity to fill it by launching the first professional squash academy in Dubai.
Offering squash services to people of all ages, levels and backgrounds. I created a safe space that people can call home.
When I went to get a trade license, squash was not even registered as an activity, I had to wait six weeks for it to be added to the system, and there was no Squash Federation.
I think the name of the Academy is self-explanatory, after my four dives with Camille Serme at the TOC, I was dubbed The Flying Daf and no other name was more suitable for me to build an empire.
2021, the Begining of Flying Daf Academy
On May 21st 2021, my Academy launched in my first location, Jumeirah Mina Al Salam. I had one client, a 4-year-old Egyptian boy. This is literally how I started.
Now, I can say loud and clear: I am a retired professional squash player
My schedule got fully booked very quickly, so I added another coach to the team, Khaled Maatouk who is now the Executive Director of the Academy. We kept expanding locations, hiring new coaches, and getting new clients.
And the rest is….
Today, The Flying Daf is based out of 10 different locations between Dubai and Abu Dhabi, I had a team of 12 coaches, and a full admin, social media and events team.
Only now, I can say loud and clear: I am a retired professional squash player. It took years of hard work and dedication to get to where I am today.
Reaching the ‘Unreachable Star’…
I have created a career for myself where I do what I love most while running a business and making a positive social impact in the world. I launched the UAE’s first National Squash Team, bringing in Nour El Sherbini, Mohamed EL Shorbagy, Nick Matthew and Miguel Rodriguez to run camps in Dubai.
In fact, Karim Abdel Gawad is coming in September to run another camp as well.
I also started sponsoring PSA players, where we offer them a full-on 360 sponsorship that covers their squash and fitness training programs, food, transportation, and accommodation in Dubai. I have 4 sponsored athletes, including Moustafa El Sirty, the current world #26.
Getting Squash in the Special Olympics
I have also launched the first People of Determination program, which is a free-of-charge program open to anyone with any physical or mental disabilities.
The program ran for 8 months straight with incredible success, next step is to get squash into the Special Olympics. I know it’s not THE Olympics, but it still counts, right?
I used my USA college experience and launched an intercollegiate squash program at the New York University of Abu Dhabi (NYUAD). I’m very happy with where I am today and very grateful for my professional career, even though it was a lot shorter than I planned, I still found a way to make it work.
My own racquet, FINALLY
You know, when I was a Pro, my dream was to have my own signature customized racquets and I never got mine because I was promised one when I broke the top 10.
Now as a retired athlete, I have four signature customized harrow rackets with the academy colours/branding / UAE flag and my signature – how ironic!
Playing squash has taught me to defy boundaries.
To make the impossible possible…
As an entrepreneur, I am enjoying life a lot more than being a pro athlete, I get to actually enjoy countries that I travel to without carrying the stress of the tournament on my shoulders, I get to eat whatever I want without feeling guilty (believe it or not I’m actually in the best shape of my life right now!), and I get to wake up every morning, work 12hours every day, without feeling like I’m working. I walk to the courts, play, and coach happily, without feeling any resentment or negative triggers associated with my pro career.
Playing squash has taught me to defy boundaries. To make the impossible possible. To never give up. To always try harder. To rise and fall, with my head held high. That is the mentality I have gained, and that is the ethos of my work which I want to share with those who are eager to take on the challenges of life.
The Flying Daf has greatly impacted the UAE, and I am about to take the world by storm. Mark my words; The Flying Daf will dominate the squash world globally very soon…”