ISLAMABAD - Pakistan squash teams both male and females left for Hong Kong on late Monday night to participate in the 17th Asian Senior Team Squash Championship.

Pakistan is the defending champion of the male category, while they are seeded seventh for the female category. Pakistan Squash Federation (PSF) have arranged a ceremony in the honor of the departing teams at Mushaf Ali Mir Squash Complex in collaboration with Rawalpindi Islamabad Sports Journalists Association (RISJA). Pakistan flag was handed over to seasoned campaigner and captain of male team Farhan Mehboob, while female skipper Maria Toor Pakai received the national flag from PSF secretary Group Captain Amir Nawaz.

Talking to The Nation, head coach Jamshed Gul termed his team’s chances as bright and said although the team would face tough competition from Hong Kong, Malaysia, India and Kuwait yet with the preparations and commitment, the greens shirts would try their best to return home as champions.

When asked about fitness levels of Pakistan’s top player Nasir Iqbal, Jamshed completely rubbished such claims and termed Nasir as super fit who was roaring to take the challenge ahead. “Nasir is gradually peaking at the right time. He has went through excessive training both under my observation and also Faheem Gul and I am dead sure, when it matters the most alongside our most experienced lad Farhan Mehboob, Nasir will play his role in winning crunch matches. His performances will matter a lot for the country.”

Sharing his views, PSF secretary Amir Nawaz said: “We have provided over the moon facilities to the players for the last four months or so and also provided equal opportunities to female players. We are giving top most important to female players and with the arrival of Maria Toor, our chances got huge boost. Maria is playing top squash and by far the best player the country has produced.”

To a query regarding sending extra official with the team while on the other hand, the PSF is crying for lack of funds, Amir replied: “It is the decision of the general council to equally provide opportunities to the associations in international events. The official will attend a very important managers’ meeting before the start of the event.”

Sharing his views, team captain Farhan Mehboob said: “Last time, Pakistan was seeded seventh and we were quite happy to enter the event as underdogs and we won the title. This time, we are second seeds and let me assure all, even my entire team remains 50 percent fit even then we will beat Indians. Whenever we played against Indians, extra force and motivations drive us all. I assure all we have more than 100 percent chance to retain the title. I will give my best and expect same from my team-mates.”

Sharing her views, female team captain Maria said: “The PSF has taken very positive step of arranging long training camp for female players for the first time. Win or loss doesn’t matter but what matters is participation in international events which will give much-needed international exposure to our players. Two players in my team are juniors and it is their first senior level team event. It will be very good learning experience for both the girls. I will request the PSF to provide maximum opportunities to female players and arrange their trips to participate in the WSA events.”

“I am fully fit and it’s a great honor for me to represent my country in such high-profile event. I will play without any pressure against any given opponent and I have full confidence on my team’s abilities,” Maria concluded.