India squash coach Achraf El Karargui of Egypt has slammed the high-handed and unprofessional approach of national squash federation SRFI and his return to India looks highly unlikely with less than three weeks to go for the Commonwealth Games in Gold Coast.
Speaking to PTI from his hometown Alexandria in Egypt, the coach claimed that that SRFI did not give him the treatment he deserved, forcing him to step down much before his contract expires in July 2019.
Despite the growing differences with SRFI, the Egyptian had committed to stay till the April 4-15 Commonwealth Games for the sake of the players but a series of events which unfolded in the lead up to the Windy City Open in Chicago has made him rethink on his decision.
“The SRFI treated me unprofessionally and questioned my decision making more often than not. You can’t expect anyone to operate as usual in such a scenario. I want to be there for the players at CWG but it is best for them to go ahead without me as there is too much distraction,” said Karargui. “The players need to be fully focused on court rather than on what is happening off court,” he added.
SRFI officials and national coach Cyrus Poncha remained unavailable for a response. Sports Authority of India, however, said Karargui is on leave till March 10 and would come back to coach the team in Commonwealth Games.
What led to the breakdown in relations between Karargui and SRFI was that the coach was not clear about his flight itinerary even four hours before he was to take off for Chicago from Chennai for the February 20-28 Windy City Open. All leading players Dipika Pallikal, Joshna Chinappa and Saurav Ghosal played in Chicago.
On the way back, Karargui was supposed to train Pallikal and men’s player Harinder Pal Sandhu in Alexandria before returning to Chennai. Sandhu got injured and could not travel to Egypt but Pallikal went ahead with the plan and is still in Alexandria training with Karargui.
“The federation cleared that plan of me going to Alexandria from Chicago for two weeks and return on March 10. But on day of the flight they said I have to come back straight to Chennai from Chicago. That was not acceptable to me so I did not go to Chicago with the team and went home instead. It was not first time that something like this happened and I had it enough,” he said.
Continues to train players
Upset at SRFIs attitude, Karargui took leave from February 20-26 and headed home. He continues to train Pallikal in Alexandria and says he is on duty. This off-the court chaos was the last thing that players wanted ahead of an important assignment like the Commonwealth Games, where Pallikal and Chinappa had won a historic gold in women’s doubles.
Another medal contender and India’s highest-ranked male player, Saurav Ghosal, said the ongoing tussle between coach and federation will only affect the team negatively.
“You want your surroundings to be calm and serene before a big event like Commonwealth Games. Unfortunately, that is not the case ahead of a tournament that comes once in four years. I don’t know what is happening,” said Ghosal. “What I can say is that the girls (Pallikal and Chinappa) will be most affected by his absence. The coach has trained a lot more with them since they are based in Chennai and have been with them on most tournaments,” he said.
On coach’s soon ending stint with the Indian team, Ghosal said, “He sure had a hands-on approach (to deal with a specific player). There were certain things he was good at, things which were lacking earlier. His exit will definitely be a loss for Indian squash.”