Courtesy: Dawn News
Pakistan’s Hamza Khan won the World Junior Squash Championship 2023 on Sunday after beating Egypt’s Mohamed Zakaria, becoming the country’s first champion since 1986.
Hamza beat Zakaria 3-1 during the tournament that was held in Melbourne, Australia.
According to PTV Sports, the last time a Pakistani made the finals was Amir Atlas in 2008, and the last winner from Pakistan was Jansher Khan in 1986.
Reacting to his win, Hamza — who had won the U-15 title at the British Junior Open Squash Championship in 2020 — thanked his coach, his managers and his parents for their support.
Congratulations poured in for Hamza for making the country proud.
Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif thanked the squash player for bringing the title back to Pakistan after 37 years.
The premier hoped that Hamza would make Pakistan “invincible” in the sport in the near future, Radio Pakistan reported. He also congratulated Hamza’s parents, coach and all his team members.
“Great news for Pakistan. Well done Hamza,” said PML-N’s Mohammad Zubair
Peshawar Zalmi owner Javed Afridi congratulated Hamza while also announcing Rs1 million as a “token of appreciation” from the Zalmi Foundation.
“There was a time Pakistan ruled the world of squash. Now we have another star in the making!” said ex-chairman of Punjab Information Technology Board (PITB) Dr Umar Saif.
How it all began
Peshawar boy Hamza has a strong squash pedigree. The former World No 14 Shahid Zaman is his maternal uncle and the legendary Qamar Zaman happens to be a close relation. Zaman’s late wife was the sister of Hamza’s father.
Talking to Eos in 2020 about his early journey, Hamza gave credit to his father Niazullah.
“My father had represented Islamia College and the Peshawar University in inter-college and inter-university sports. He used to take me to the Hashim Khan Squash Complex where he would coach me. I usually practiced for half an hour like the other visitors there. Then, I appeared in the U-11 trials for the PAF Academy Peshawar, which took place at the same complex. I defeated all the other seven boys, including the then Pakistan U-11 champion, and got selected,” Hamza said.
From there onwards, squash became an integral part of the young man’s life. “We used to undergo intense physical training under an instructor in the mornings. Then after school it was back to the academy again, and from 2pm to 6pm it was all training and practice matches,” he said.
And then success arrived in the very first competitive venture. “When I won the Chief of Air Staff U-11 in 2016, I was called by the Pakistan Squash Federation [PSF] for training in Islamabad,” he said.
During the interview, Hamza said that his ultimate goal was to win major titles. “My ultimate goal is to bring back the big titles, the British Open and the World Open, to Pakistan,” he said.