Saturday, July 31, 2010

Carla Khan – Interview with Squash Queen of Pakistan

Sakina Younus a few days back wrote a great article on female sports celebrities in Pakistanand one of the names she mentioned in that list was Carla Khan.

Pakistan has dominated Squash for decades and one of the names that frequently comes to mind is Carla Khan. We are proud to bring you an exclusive interview with the Squash Queen of Pakistan. She was generous and kind enough to respond to our invitation for interview. Before we start the questions, let us give you a brief background ;

Carla Khan (born August 18th, 1981 in London), is from the great line of squash champions, her grandfather being Azam Khan, great uncle Hashim Khan known as the godfather of squash. She started playing squash in England at age 12. In her early life, her father Wasil Khan (a junior world champion) coached her in squash. She represented England and was a top junior player having won various junior titles including being European junior number one. At the age of 19 she changed to represent Pakistan, Carla then made history as she was the first female from the direct line of champions to pursue a career in the game.

How did it feel being the first female in the family to enter the squash arena?

I Felt very proud, when I was younger and first starting out I didn’t realise I came from such an amazing squash dynasty, only until my game started to improve and play junior tournaments that I realised who I was and what I came from, then I realised that I was the one now carrying on our dynasty which felt a great honour and this gave me a chance to change history for the Khan dynasty, Squash and Pakistan.

What has been the influence of your father and grandfather in your life?

The influence has been that my father introduced the game to me and coached, encouraged and supported me throughout my career, my grandfather I looked up too as a figure of honour of what he had achieved. My main influence in my life is my mum, she was and still is my back bone who has encouraged me, supported me, picked me up through bad times ,loses and injuries and she still continues to back me in whatever I do, whatever I have achieved is because of my parents.

What prompted you to change your national representation to Pakistan?

As a Junior player I represented England but could never really understand why I always was a controversial player, I was a top England player but in my opinion felt I was never treated the same as the other players, through this I imagine is because of my great heritage. When I was 19 I got the chance to go back to Pakistan, whilst in Pakistan I decided I wanted to represent my for fathers country and carry on our dynasty. This then made me even more a controversial player as everyone questioned my decision, but this was the best decision I made and through thick or thin would never change back to England. Some people think I changed because I wasn’t good enough England player but I was ranked 2 or 3 in England u19′s at that time and European champion, this decision was made to change nationalities was my choice and so began the long road ahead of being accepted as a Pakistani Player.

Your best performance to date? or the tournament you enjoyed the most?

I always mention my defeat against Nicol but I think the tournament I enjoyed the most was the first ever Women’s International Pakistani Open in Wah Cantt in 2005, this was my favourite tournament because I won the first ever wispa tournament in Pakistan without dropping a game and the support and encouragement I got from the crowd was unbelievable, this was the tournament that finally got Carla Khan noticed by the Pakistani Public.

How did it feel when you beat current world no 1 Nicol David from Malaysia in the Irish Open in 2004?

Was the best feeling in the world and one I shall never forget.

Why did you decide to retire in 2008? when things were going quite well for you?

In 2006 I started getting injuries sickness and no financial support, I took time out and then injured my back very badly in SAF Games playing for Pakistan, I had no proper help from Pakistan Federation or encouragement to return. It took a long time to get back on tour, once I had in 2007 I was doing very well , I had won 3 tournaments in the space of a few months but with no financial support with tickets or physio, I had finally lost my fight and was tired of always having to work so hard for everything. I felt cheated I had put Pakistan on the map with my achievements but they had never been acknowledged or kept quite by the federation and I could no longer continue to support myself throughout my career.

What spurred you to come out of retirement next year?

I was in U.S coaching squash to the next champions of this era but I am a player and missed the competitive side , so I decided to play a couple of tournaments which were based in the U.S.

Do you feel the time you took out in 2008 has hurt your progress as a player?

Yes but in 2008 and 2009, I was no longer competing properly. I still feel that I could of done better, if I had been given the right chances. My record shows that I had reached top 20 in the world in my early 20′s with no help and the players I have beaten were always higher than me and now most are top 5. I guess it will always be a what if but through my hard work and struggles I have opened the doors for female players in Pakistan.

How has the role of Pakistan Federation been in your career over the years?

As you have already read, not very helpful. They always tried to keep me back but in spite of this I never went away, I am a Pathan and Pathan’s are strong and stick to what they believe and want and I always said I would play for Pakistan and the Pashtoons in spite of everything and I did.

Do you feel that your achievements have made the game more attractive for other female squash players in Pakistan?

Yes, when I first went to Pakistan to train, there was less than a handful of girls playing but with my influence and knowledge of the game other girls started to get interested and wanted to become professional, they were intrigued and they were saying to me they wanted to be the next Carla Khan which has made my struggle worth while. I always said if I can do it so can they, with determination, dedication and belief.

How fluent are you in Urdu/Pashto? how often do you come to Pakistan?

I am asked this question a lot and always hold my head in shame neither am I fluent but my pashto is much better than my Urdu. I used to go to Pakistan about 5 times a year but since I retired I haven’t returned for about 3 years, I miss Pakistan a lot. I am so very proud of my background, I was raised in England but my love Pakistan is great, sometimes I feel I am more Pakistani than most. Pakistan has given me so much and I hope to give back more in the future.

How passionate are you about Pakistan? What is your take on the current situation in Pakistan especially in the northern Western part where you belong to?

I am very passionate about Pakistan, I feel so very sad on what’s happening in Pakistan,

Can you tell us about your fitness schedule and routine? any supreme diet you take in order to keep in supreme physical state?

When I used to train full time my fitness schedule was very intense, as a junior player I used to train up to 4 hours a day on court as I Improved and got older I would train up to 6 hours of on court work, skills , technique, movement, gym strengthening and stamina also swimming and lots of solo practise. Squash is such a hard sport that you need to put so much time in to training and playing many matches for experience of different match play.

In the past interviews you have expressed a desire to help Pakistani women. What do you feel there problems are and how do you intend on helping them?

I would love to help Pakistani women not only in sport but in everyday life, I felt whilst I was in Pakistan training I became a role model because I would speak up for the ladies or just encourage them. My desire is to be a spokeswomen or a voice. In this horrible times we are going through I want to help with charity work to volunteer to help underprivilaged Pakistan and Afghanistan, especially women and children. I am currently seeking the right charity to get involved with.

What is the future of the Khan dynasty? should we look forward to more champions?

Unfortunately from my direct line there is no more players coming from the direct line but you never know what the future holds.

What do we expect from Carla Khan in the future?

Well I am no longer competing as you know, I have now gone into TV Presenting which is my dream and would love one day to be a main presenter on a mainstream channel. I am writing a book and I hope to make more of a change for women in Pakistan and I hope one day my true story of the hurdles and barriers will be told.

What message do you give to your fans and especially to females who want to join sports as a profession?

I would like to say thank you so much to my fans, I receive many emails daily from fans who have supported me right from the beginning. My fans are the ones that have made me what I am. My Pathan fans have supported me throughout even though I have broken many traditions which really touches my heart. For females who want to join sport professionally, find a good club, train hard, never be shy of hard work, always put in 100 percent as long as you have a strong mind and focus you can achieve anything and with negative feedback, or unnecessary criticism take it on board but don’t take it to heart. Please make me and Pakistan proud.


Thats all, hope you liked the interview. If you have any questions, please ask in the comments section.

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