By RJ Mitchell
Six-time British Open champion Jonah Barrington believes that Mohamed ElShorbagy’s recent switch of nationalities from Egyptian to English will have far-reaching benefits for the former World No.1’s new England teammates and should not be controversial.
Barrington, who took the 15-year-old ElShorbagy under his wing at Millfield School when the Alexandrian moved to England, has been a coach, friend and mentor to ElShorbagy over the course of the last 16 years and says that the qualities the Bristol-based player possesses can only help improve those around him.
He explains: “It is clear cut to me and should benefit everyone in England Squash [and] it is hugely positive for England as Mohamed is a benchmark for our young players. I am sure he will conduct himself in the right way and there was an apology earlier this week to referee Andrea Santamaria for what happened at El Gouna and I think that Mohamed will now remember who he is, what he has done and his responsibility.
“Mohamed is a World Champion, a British Open champion and has been World No.1 on so many occasions and [now] he is in their midst the coaches will enjoy it as it gives them more room for manoeuvre at European and World Team Championships.”
Barrington adds that he does not believe there would have been any opposition from ElShorbagy’s new teammates, despite the World No.3’s obvious talents increasing competition for places in the national team: “I can tell you this, if any of the players have a problem then they wouldn’t have made it anyway. Anyone of any fibre would be delighted to have the opportunity at England gatherings to practise and train with Mohamed and of course pick his brains.”
An 18-year-old Mohamed ElShorbagy, pictured three years after moving to England.
While ElShorbagy’s switch last week raised some eyebrows, with sections of social media particularly vocal in their opposition, Barrington says that the move should not be controversial, that it makes sense for ElShorbagy and will have little effect on squash in Egypt.
“I am not in the slightest bit surprised in terms of Mohamed’s switch,” Barrington says.
Referencing switches in squash such as Peter Nicol moving from Scotland to England and John White representing Scotland despite having being born in Australia, as well as the frequency of nation changes in other sports, Barrington says: “It didn’t bother me, this doesn’t bother me, and it shouldn’t bother other people as that is the way sport has developed.
“In this day and age it is very common for switches to be made and normally it is on background family and residence and Mohamed certainly qualifies by a distance on the latter.
“Mohamed is very settled in his decision. It makes good sense; Mohamed has lived here for more than 15 years.
“He was with me for three years plus at 15 and then he was with Hadrian [Stiff] at Bristol at the University so his life was very much in England and not Egypt.”
“It is all positive and it’s no problem for Egypt as they have a glut of world-class players.”
Barrington concludes that there is a perception that ElShorbagy did not get sufficient support back in the country of his birth and now that ‘the Beast’ is 31 years old, the switch is in the best interests of his career and health: “It makes sense. It is very pragmatic at this stage as it is more likely Mohamed will need medical rehab support that will be very much available to him. He is at a time in his career where he increasingly needs to take care of his body and he will get a lot of sports science support in England in that respect.”
ElShorbagy plays in the final of the Necker Mauritius Open Presented by Beachcomber Resorts and Hotels tonight at 19:45 (GMT+4), live on SQUASHTV.