"Squash is my life," said Ahmed Mohammed

Ahmed Mohammed is only 25 years old, during which he has already been highly praised, both in his native Egypt and in Ukraine. He repeatedly took first place in major Ukrainian tournaments, only a few times losing first place. And Ukrainian history began with the Zenit Black Sea Open’16 in Odessa. Why did Ahmed decide to move to Kyiv, how does he prepare for matches and why does squash occupy a leading place in his life?

- How did your acquaintance with squash begin?

- My dad played squash as an M1 fan. I went to play with him and his friends for fun, and at the age of six I started training with a coach. 20 years have passed since then. Almost my whole life (smiles).

- Why did you decide to move to Ukraine? Kiev?

- Apart from squash, I didn't really like my life in Egypt. I wanted to change places. I tried to go to Germany but there were many problems with visas and documents. A year before moving to Ukraine, I came to Odessa for the Zenit Black Sea Open, where I asked Dima Shcherbakov (fitness director of Sport Life) if I could work at the club if I moved, and he said yes. That's why I moved to Ukraine when I started thinking about where to stay and chose Kyiv, because it's the best place.

- Who do you like working with the most?

- There are two options for working as a coach: working with amateurs or professional players from juniors to adults. I am more comfortable working with professional players, they play in tournaments, they have serious reasons why they are here. I can give them more information and show better results, because I have 20 years of experience behind me. Also, I am interested in training amateurs who aspire to become professionals. For me, this is a challenge, because psychologically it is more difficult. When I go to the tournament both as a player and as a coach, I am in the club for 10 hours a day. 6-7 players playing in the tournament, all a few games a day, do not have time to go eat.

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- When do you have time to prepare for your game?

- I lose a lot of energy before the match. So I was very upset when I lost my airpods as this is my option to save energy before the game. I turn on the music and try to focus on myself. It helps me stay calm. The most difficult victory is the victory over oneself, over one's thoughts.

- What do you not like in Ukraine?

- Winter. It is very cold, it gets dark very early, there is almost no sun, all the time everything is gray around. You don't see people, you only see big coats. I didn't recognize my girlfriend because she was in a coat, mask and hat (laughs).

- What is your favorite place in Kyiv?

- In summer, when the weather is good, I like to walk on the Post Square, the waterfront. The whole atmosphere is great in summer, when musicians play outside and the day is long.

- What do you miss?

- For food, parents and squash.

- "Why squash?"

- Because squash in Egypt is very strong. My fitness trainer Samir is there. When I come on vacation to Egypt it is always a test for me. I train here but the real indicator of my level of play is Egypt. Yes, squash and food are what is lacking. My relationship with my family is very close, but I didn't feel well there and needed a change of location. Now that I live, I understand that my mother did a lot of work and it all seemed so easy to her. I do it only for myself, she did it for 5 people (for myself, my father, my two sisters and me).

- After what moment did you realize that squash occupies a leading place in your life?

- I understood this when I had a 2-year break, I was then 16-18 years old. I had many reasons for this. First, it was due to an injury to the hamstrings of both legs, and I wanted it morally and psychologically. Yes, as I was highly regarded in Egypt, which means hours of training, and that every game should be won. There could be no reason to miss a workout if you didn't come, next time you might just not be allowed into the club. This may seem too harsh, but it is one of the reasons why Egypt has the best players. From the age of 9 or 10 there was a lot of pressure from my parents, coach, club and absolutely no personal life, so when I was injured, I was happy at first and wanted to stay home as long as possible before returning to training and getting injured again. Then I really missed the squash, since then I started to pay more time and attention to myself and decided to return to the court. In fact, it was too late, because I saw that everything had changed. I became very easy to lose to opponents whom I used to easily win. I still pay for this break. I lost a lot of time, it's the worst.

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- You focus on the injuries you received, is squash so traumatic and is there a way out?

- Yes, of course there is a way out. Do a warm-up before training and a warm-up at the end; correct training load; visit a physiotherapist; stop training as soon as you feel something is wrong with your muscles. Doing other sports can also cause injuries. For example, playing football with friends before a tournament or training can cause injury. Proper nutrition and sleep will help you recover faster after training.

And this is the point of balance that I want to put in Ukraine: young players must have a serious quality training and training system. And, should also have a personal life and a little time for entertainment and recovery, not as in Egypt, should not be psychologically and physically burned, as you see some Egyptian players in their peak age of 20 to 30 years go with the squash. I do not wish any of the juniors my experience. Be a really promising player and then lose the score. You can solve any problem, but not a waste of time.

- You focus on the injuries you received, is squash so traumatic and is there a way out?

- Yes, of course there is a way out. Do a warm-up before training and a warm-up at the end; correct training load; visit a physiotherapist; stop training as soon as you feel something is wrong with your muscles. Doing other sports can also cause injuries. For example, playing football with friends before a tournament or training can cause injury. Proper nutrition and sleep will help you recover faster after training.

- What would you change in Ukrainian squash?

- Private system of clubs. In Egypt, each club has a head coach who works with a team of coaches. He works with them, creating schedules and plans for them and the players, which include (regular workouts, feeding, fitness, sparring and even solo). This system monitors the progress of juniors. They cannot be lazy or carefree. With this system, each club is also registered in the Federation, so they organize tournaments and play in the Egyptian League, where clubs compete with each other in all categories. All clubs try to have the best coaches and players that they could win in the league or at least be in the first category. Clubs have three categories. Clubs of the first category must pay contracts for their players in accordance with the rules of the Egyptian federation. Also, all juniors would like to represent their clubs in the league, and for this you need to train well, achieve high results and be responsible for taking you to the team.

As for my start in Ukraine, in the first 2-3 weeks I tried to understand how it works here, for training and competitions. I even asked clients what type of workout they wanted (classic workout or sparring). I had only Egypt as a reference point, where fitness is a basic workout on a schedule, as well as a squash workout. When I asked some players about fitness, they wondered why I needed fitness training: "I'm a squash player!". Other players trained a maximum of 3-4 hours a week. A few months later, I was glad that I was able to change their plans a bit and add physical training to the training and motivate them to train more during the week. They quickly realized how important this approach to training is. Despite my 20 years of experience in squash, if I have any questions about the fitness part, I always consult with my coach Samir.

- What can you advise players who are just getting acquainted with the racket and the ball?

- I wish that their first training was with a coach who is in love with squash. Who will be able to present it well is very important, especially in the first training session.

- Thank you for your time and inspiration!

- Thank you also! I haven't talked about it before, maybe because I didn't have the opportunity to say it. During the interview with you, such an opportunity arose, so I want to express my gratitude to Ukraine and Ukrainians now.

Communicating with many people, the squash community often heard that they were happy, that I came to Ukraine and all that. But I'm really lucky to be here. I was very well received in Ukraine, especially squash players. Yes, the country has its problems, but most of the people I met are nice and friendly. I will tell a few stories, whatever that sounds like a diplomatic compliment. I came here and was a rival of the best Ukrainian coaches and players, in many places I would not be welcomed, but in Ukraine everything was exactly the opposite.

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For example, I have a good relationship with Valera and Kostya, these two are the best in Ukraine since I came and still as players and coaches. We train every time we manage to find time for it.

Dima Kravchuk does everything I need, coaches me on the court and in the gym, even as a coach he always helps me. Sometimes, he even advises his clients to train with me, because he considers me a good coach, not everyone can do that.

The Ukrainian federation always helps me with documents and tickets.

And Dmitry Shcherbakov greeted me in his club and introduced me to Ukrainian squash.

For all the reasons mentioned above and for many others, I am really happy in Ukraine and I love Ukrainians. I don't know if I will continue to live in Ukraine or not, but it will always be the best time of my life. So, thank you for the fate that brought me here and everyone I met here.

At the end of the interview, I thought for a long time about the difference between the training processes in our country and in Egypt, and I could not get rid of the feeling that it is extremely cool when there are coaches who are passionate about the work they do and can pass it on to others.

@Oksana Gerasimenko

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