New national coach is son of Pakistani who coached Singapore squash greats
Before he became coach of the Singapore men's squash team this year, Ibrahim Gul had a more lucrative coaching offer in the United States.
But the 32-year-old Pakistani turned it down because the Republic is his "second home" and he wants to restore his father Rahim's legacy.
Rahim coached the likes of Zainal Abidin and Peter Hill in the 1980s, when the sport was at its peak here.
"Before I took up the (Singapore) job, I had a discussion with my father, whom I am very close to," Ibrahim told The New Paper in an interview on the sidelines of the Old Chang Kee Singapore Open at the Kallang Squash Centre yesterday.
"He asked me what my gut feeling was and I said that I want to return to my childhood which, in a way, supported me and made me who I am today."
"I still remember that Zainal carried me as a baby... I want to come back and give my best to Singapore," added the former top 100-ranked player, who is the second oldest among Rahim's four children.
Ibrahim's elder sister is a Singaporean citizen, while his youngest brother Waseem coaches the National Junior College team.
Since his arrival in March, Ibrahim, who also guides the junior squads, has polished his charges' technique and fitness in what he describes as the Pakistani way.
He said: "When I arrived, they were nowhere near PSA (Professional Squash Association) standards and, now, they are about 50 per cent there."
Ibrahim has plans to send players on the PSA circuit, and on training tours to countries such as Pakistan and Hong Kong next year to get exposure.
He has boldly predicted that Singapore will strike gold in the sport when they host the South-east Asia (SEA) Games next June.
Singapore won all four gold medals in squash when they last hosted the SEA Games in 1993, but the sport has been in the doldrums for more than a decade.
Ibrahim, formerly assistant coach of the Pakistani national team, is pinning his medal hopes on Vivian Rhamanan and Marcus Phua, who were both losing semi-finalists in the men's singles at last year's SEA Games in Myanmar.
"From next month, Marcus and Vivian will train full-time till the SEA Games. They train once a day at the moment and I am going to double that.
"Imagine what I can do with the two of them. They are going to be super fit and super skilful," said the coach, whose contract runs till mid-2016.
Beyond next year's SEA Games, he has seen encouraging growth in the numbers at the grassroots level, thanks to efforts by the Singapore Squash Rackets Association to reach out to non-traditional squash schools.
He admitted, though, that his goal of making Singapore a dominant nation in the sport again will be slowed down by the lack of facilities and National Service.
But he is undaunted by the task ahead, as well as the shadow of his father's legacy looming over him.
Confidently, he said: "I don't feel any extra pressure (from my father's legacy) at all... I want to bring glory back to Singapore, which my father used to do. We just need a bit, not a lot of time.
"Getting gold medals at the SEA Games next year will be very important to everyone who holds a squash racket in Singapore, because we want squash to be on the map in Singapore sports.
"Winning gold will show people that we can deliver players of a high level."