The entire Pakistani squash team was forced to withdraw from the Irish Squash Open after they failed to obtain visas, it emerged today.
The team’s three players were due to compete for the €11,600 prize at the five-day tournament in Dublin.
Yasir Butt, Arshed Iqbal Burki and Mijid Khan, were all ranked in the Top 100 of the sport’s governing body, the Professional Squash Association.
The Irish Squash Open organisers said it was unfortunate that the players had been unable to obtain visas.
“We’re extremely disappointed but we know that the process of getting visas in some countries is slower,” said technical director Martin McDonnell.
A female Nigerian player was unable to compete in the ladies section, after she also failed to get a visa in time.
The case has attracted headlines in Pakistan, which has produced a succession of world squash champions despite having less than 400 courts.
The Pakistani Squash Federation (PSF) is planning to request the Pakistani Foreign Office to take up the matter at international level so that similar incidents did not occur in future.
According to the local Daily Times, the PSF is concerned that its players will fall down the world rankings as a result of being unable to compete.
Mr McDonnell said the lack of visas for international players was not just an Irish problem.
“It’s a problem for every country and it something that the Professional Squash Association are trying to tackle. There is another tournament in Switzerland that has experienced the exact same thing.”
The Pakistani players applied for visas in Pakistan on April 1, shortly after they learnt they had qualified for the Irish Squash Open, but were told it would take four weeks to process them.
Mr McDonnell said the organisers had requested the Irish Department of Foreign Affairs speed up the process, but they had been unable to do so because the visa applications had not arrived from Pakistan.
Around five years ago, a foreign player was granted a visa to compete in a junior Irish squash tournament. He struggled to complete in his scheduled match and requested directions to a Garda station immediately afterwards to seek permission to stay in the country.
However, Mr McDonnell said there had been no concerns about the Pakistani team overstaying their visas.
“They are all players ranked in the Top 100 and they’ve been completely vetted by their own association,” he said.
Squash players from around 20 countries are taking part in the Open, which is being held at the Fitzwilliam Lawn Tennis club in south Dublin.