Exhibition Squash Match – Marwan El Shorbagy (10) vs Joel Makin (12)

Monday 25th November 2019 – Oxshott Squash Club

On a wet night in late November, the usual rabble of squash members turned up for the weekly instalment of “Club Night” run by the esteemed coach, Peter Crossman.  Recently, club night has been streamed; the “better” players (classified as A standard – internal leagues 1-4 and team players) have been allowed to arrive early and play between 6:45pm and 8:30pm, while everyone else arrives at 8:30pm (B standard).

Well, the A players arrived as per usual this evening to find 50 seats set out behind court 3 and Peter sweeping the court (ably assisted by Sam).  Excitement grew as they thought Peter had arranged an audience to watch their talented squash.  Hopes were dashed though when it was explained that an exhibition squash match, in aid of The Garden Route Children’s Trust, would be taking place between World Number 10 – Marwan El Shorbagy and World Number 12 – Joel Makin and these two players would need all three courts.  Two to warm up on and one to play on.  Many heads were scratched but our A players took it in good spirits and headed to their favourite part of the club (the bar) to get in the mood.

Marwan and Joel had both recently been knocked out of the quarter finals of the Channel VAS Championships at St. George’s Hill.  Marwan going down 3/0 to the eventual winner, Karin Abdel Gawad (4) and Joel pushing Paul Coll (5) all the way to the fifth game but losing 3/2.

Joel turned up early but as the start time of 7:30pm rolled around there was no sign of Marwan.  A call went up for someone to “step in”. However, by this time most A players had been in the bar for 30 minutes and their enthusiasm to participate in any physical activity had waned.  It was even cruelly suggested that Stuart Hibbert necked a bottle of beer just to avoid being called up.  The hero that is George Whitehouse went to look for a racquet just as Marwan came strolling into the club – visibly upset, George consoled himself with another drink.

The audience then made their way through to the courts to take their seats before the main action of the evening took place.  Peter introduced the players to riotous applause, Joel Makin being introduced as the guy that pushed Paul Coll to five games and one for the future, Marwan El Shorbagy was introduced as the brother of World Number 1 – Mohamed El Shorbagy (which seemed a bit harsh as he’s a pretty good player in his own right).

Won’t/can’t get into describing too much of the squash on show as it was on another level to that of which we all play.  The warm up was frenetic, never seen a ball hit that hard and with those reactions.  Joel took the first two games with some brilliant shots, creative boasts and great retrieval shots off the back wall.  Marwan highlighted he’d be doing a lot better if the tin was lower and the court was wiped after every point.  Going into the third Marwan needed some inspiration to turn the tide.  That inspiration came from the aforementioned George Whitehouse, who was clearly good friends with Marwan (who knew?!).  George shouted words of encouragement from the back row, Marwan and George locked eyes, and a connection was made.  Marwan got the upper hand and started dictating the points to Joel.  After one particularly long rally, Marwan was out on his feet but again his connection with George came to the fore.  A sub was requested and Marwan vacated the court to George in order to take Joel on in his place.  The club went wild, George asked for intro music (Eye of the Tiger, we didn’t have it but just put that image in your head).  George served, Joel barely managed to return it, George did his now famous windmill, sending Joel the wrong way, George then played a deep shot to the back left, Joel again scrambled to return, George then confused Joel by playing it through his own legs, Joel, now dead on his feet dug another return out, George tinned it and the moment was over.  George hugged Marwan like old friends do and a knowing wink was exchanged.  Marwan then took over the mantle and won the third game.  Unfortunately, George needed to go to the bar/toilet during the fourth game which his best buddy Marwan lost, giving the match to Joel 3/1.

Post-match, a curry was provided by Jeff and his wonderful family for the entire audience.  Both Marwan and Joel stayed the entire evening and signed shirts and had photos taken; they really were great sports, a credit to the squash community.

Ruth Burns, a Trustee from GRCT charity, shared how the charity helps children living in poverty in South Africa.  An auction was compered by the one and only Alan Clarke, who auctioned two bottles of booze which he’d “found at home” and he then auctioned a signed shirt from the Channel VAS Championships.  The shirt was unwittingly bought by Ed Myhill for £250.  This, the £100 for the booze and £2,000 from the rest of the evening has been donated to The Garden Route Children’s Trust.

In summary, it was an excellent evening of top-level squash which I think we all really enjoyed being a part of.  There is a real appetite to make this an annual event so watch this space next year.

Finally, Joel departed the club heading back to his base in Bristol or Birmingham or somewhere over the rainbow, whilst Marwan was seen heading into the night with the reprobates from the second team, Bill Saville, Alan Clarke, Paul Gregory and Julian Clogg.  Suspect they were trying to sign him up as they are always short a player.

Last thoughts – we have a new booking system MyCourts. Does anyone know if Joel and Marwan paid the £3 visitors fee via the system?  And has anyone asked them if they would like to join the internal leagues?