The origins of squash
The history of squash began many centuries ago in France (around the year 1150) with a game called “le Pauem” (the palm of the hand), which developed into tennis in the late fifteenth century. At this time people played similar games just for entertainment, simply in narrow streets.
The next big step came in the early 19th century in Fleet Prison in England. The prisoners played it inside their cells, just hitting the ball with their hands (and rackets later) and bouncing it off the walls. This game became known as “Rackets”.
These games were very popular in schools and that gave the birth to the squash itself. The first four courts were built in Harrow school in England in 1864 and the game was officially founded (the word “squash” comes from a noise the ball makes when bouncing of the front wall of the court).
The sport still lacked any kind of standardisation and that led to two branches of squash – one played with soft ball in England and the second with a hard ball and slightly narrower court in North America.
The first squash court in North America was built in 1884 in New Hampshire at St. Paul`s School and in 1907 the first national association was founded – the United States Squash Rackets Association (USSRA). The Canadian Squash Rackets Association followed in 1911 and in Great Britain the game was regulated by a sub committee of Tennis and Rackets Association – the Squash Rackets Association was formed finally in 1928.
The first professional world championship came in 1920 in England and later the sport began spreading around the globe. In 1960s and 1980s it was mainly because of the effort by two of the best players at that time – Jonah Barington from Ireland and Geoff Hunt from Australia – who brought the game to the masses of people and started a great boom in this sport.
The International Squash Rackets Association (ISRF) was founded in 1966 in London by representatives from Great Britain, USA, Canada, Australia, Inida, Pakistan, New Zealand, South Africa and the United Arab Republic. In 1992 the ISRF was renamed to World Squash Federation (WSF), finally recognizing the name of the game as “Squash”, not “Squash Rackets”.
The WSF controls the rules, specifications of courts, rackets and other gear, referees and also training and education. It supports the coordination of squash events and organises the World Championships. And lately it closely cooperates with the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to incorporate squash into the Olympic program.
There are more than 120 national squash associations under WSF now. The game is now played in over 150 countries on more than 49.000 courts, over 17 million players are registered.
One of the first great players in the history of squash was F. D. Amr Bey from Egypt who won five British Open Championship in 1930s. The next famous Egyptian came 15 years later – M. A. Karim won the title four times between 1947 and 1950.
We have already mentioned Geoff Hunt from Australia – during the 1960s and 1970s he won the British Open eight times.
And we can`t forget the legendary Pakistan players – Jahangir Khan winning the British Open a record of ten times (1982-1992), Jansher Khan (eight times), Hashim Khan (seven times) and his dynasty.