A Mystery of Modern Times: Why Do Egyptians Dominate the Game of Squash?

It has sports watchers all over the world wondering why, but for some reason — at the moment — the game of squash is dominated by Egyptians, both men and women.

Now, the top four men in the world rankings of squash players are Egyptians, and six more are in the top 20 of the game.

In the past 15 years, an Egyptian has won the men’s world championship a total of 10 times.

Not only that, Egyptian women are also dominating the game of squash. All four of the top players are women, and the girls’ junior national team won the world championship for seven years in a row.

The top female player in the world is 30-year-old Raneem El Welily, who won nearly two dozen titles. She is married to another professional squash player, Tarek Momen, and he ranked number three in the world earlier this year.

The game of squash once dominated by Brits and Americans, is now the favored hot sport in Egypt.

But why Egypt? A combination of excitement for the game, and a team of strong coaches have helped spark the game of squash in the desert country. Just like an athlete can find a coach and advise through Sportamix, aspiring squash players found coaches that helped produce these great players.

Daniel Coyle, who wrote a book called “The Talent Code” about talented sport trends in different countries, said that young players can watch the professional players in close proximity in Egypt, at a classic squash court that is in the shadows of the Great Pyramid of Giza.

Squash was created at a private school in England in the early 19th Century and British officers brought the sport throughout the world and into the colonies. The game is somewhat unstructured and includes drop shots and deceptive flicks of the wrist. The game is played with a racquet like an elongated tennis racquet and a hollow rubber ball smaller than a tennis ball. The game is played in a four-walled court with two to flour players alternately striking the ball into the playable surfaces of the four walls.

Female Squash Match

In 1996, a young teen player Ahmed Barada turned heads after winning a wild card spot at the games played at the squash course next the Great Pyramid. He lost the final game, but his aggressive playing and on-court charisma created a star squash player, and the Egyptian president at the time, Hosni Mubarak praised Barada’s game and sportsmanship.

Today, the average pro squash player earns about $100,000 and the top player took in about $280,000 in 2018. 

Also, playing squash is a path to getting into a top university or prep school. Four Egyptian players are on the Harvard team.

One squash coach, Amir Wagih, who also played professionally, said, “Egyptian mothers are like our secret weapon” because parents know their children will get good education if they can play the game well.

An American female player, Sabrina Sobhy, relocated to Egypt to figure out the magic of the area. Ranked 52 in the game, she moved to crack the code and found a concentration fo quality players and coaches. 

The United States produces about 1.7 million regular squash players, and about 3,500 courts. In Egypt, about 10,000 players work on about 400 courts, mostly bunched in two cities, Alexandria and Cairo.

Squash is not yet an Olympic sport despite the international fan base. Soccer of course remains the most popular sport in Egypt, if not the entire planet, but squash is a close second in Egypt, and the players keep getting better.

Male Squash Match