Walker, Becker Serve Up a Squash Treat

Namibia’s top squash player Marco Becker pushed Botswana’s Alister Walker all the way before losing a tight encounter 3-1 in an exhibition squash match at the Wanderers Sports Club on Saturday.

The match formed part of the Namibia Squash Association’s promotional events leading up to the World Junior Squash Championships that Namibia will host on 10 to 21 August this year.

Walker, a former world number 12, won the men’s individual title at the All Africa Squash Championships in Windhoek last year, and is currently ranked 22nd in the world.

He is based in the United States, from where he competes on the professional squash circuit, but is also involved in promoting squash in southern African countries and jumped at the chance to come to Windhoek, where he conducted a coaching clinic.

A big crowd turned out at the Wanderers Sports Club and the players did not disappoint as they provided an absorbing display of top-class squash.

Walker won the first set 11-9, but Becker rose to the occasion, and with the crowd urging him on, took the second set 11-9.

Walker comfortably won the third set 11-4, but Becker once again stepped up his game as the opponents battled it out in an enthralling fourth set. The lead changed several times and Becker even held set point at 10-9, but Walker’s experience came through as he forced Becker into errors to win the fourth set 12-10.

Walker was accompanied to Namibia by one of his top squash students, the 15-year-old Mac Awalt, who last year was ranked 32nd amongst Under 15 players in the United States.

Awalt took on Namibia’s second-ranked Under 16 player, Kyle Kriel in another exhibition match and gave a classy performance to win the encounter 11-3, 11-7.

Walker has coached Awalt for close to two years now, during which time they became good friends. Having been coached by other African squash stars like Lazarus Chilufya, Robbie Lingashi and Patrick Chifunda, Awalt developed a bond with Africa and decided to help develop the game on the continent.

“I have had a few African coaches who all inspired my love for the game. They explained the situation of squash courts in Africa which were ruined and dishevilled so I decided I wanted to make a difference. I just thought that I’m so fortunate and have so many squash opportunities, so now I’m trying to raise funds in the United States to restore courts in Africa,” he said.

Awalt has developed a website www.ssap-squash.org which sets out the mission and objectives of his initiative.

Walker, meanwhile, is also committed to helping squash grow in Africa, after he switched his international allegiance to Botswana last year.

He was born in Gaborone, Botswana in 1982 but later moved to England, whom he first represented as a squash player.

“My dad is from England and my mom from Botswana. At 14 I went to boarding school in England and when the opportunity came to play for England, I took it,” he said.

“But a few years ago, I decided to come back to represent my country of birth, and try to help squash grow in other African countries as well,” he added.

Walker praised the development and organisation of Namibian squash, saying it had great potential to grow.

“I kept in touch with Tyc (Kakehongo) after the All Africa Championships last year, where he did a fantastic job. I conducted a clinic in Windhoek now and was amazed at the talent that you have here,” he said.

Kakehongo, who is the World Junior Squash Championships director said that things were starting to fall into place for the championships in two months’ time.

“Entries for the individual tournament close at the end of the month and I expect we will have about 180 players from about 40 countries. The first all-glass court will also arrive in Namibia next month,” he said.

Source : The Namibian