Thursday, September 1, 2011

The Remover of All Obstacles…Lord Ganesha of Zimbabwe Squash

I don’t even remember how I recently came to know Mr. Mashumba Mukumba, executive member and founder of the Zimbabwe Squash Academy, a non-profit squash initiative that brings this great game of ours to the underprivileged and economically challenged children of his noble African state. But no matter, I’ve exchanged numerous emails with this man, this champion of squash and have been inspired. Today my Hindu wife, Shyamala, told me she needed to place flowers at her altar because it is Lord Ganesha’s birthday, the “elephant” god, as mythology goes is the holy offspring of Lord Shiva and Pavarthi, who is the remover of all obstacles. I asked her to say a prayer to Lord Ganesha for him and I have on my desk a small statue of the god to which I asked most humbly to remove all obstacles facing the Zimbabwe Squash Academy. I explained to the God, this is a great cause sustained by the passion for squash by it’s founder.
Mr. Mukumba. 3 years ago had a vision of promoting the game he has devoted his whole life to in attempts to widen the appeal and participation among all Zimbabwe children. When you read his charter, it reads like gospel, so determined is he to elevate the lives of the disadvantaged through squash. While we have organizations here in the US which promote squash among the best and brightest of underprivileged children, Mr. Mukumba and his dedicated staff of coaches and members of his “trust” seek to promote this game to any child who has an interest. Often many show up to his courts with just the clothes on their backs, barefoot, having no idea what this game is, but drawn by curiosity for anything that is different from their usual surroundings. Tirelessly through video demonstrations around urban areas, on court exhibitions, he is a magnet drawing these children to the clubs, often in the wealthier neighborhoods. He offers some glimmer of pursuing excellence in a sport that is demanding, difficult, which presents more obstacles than perhaps the children’s own lives, he gives them the opportunity to transcend those obstacles at least in squash., at least for the time they are on court. He gives them the dream of perhaps someday being a champion. The great thing about squash is when on court it is the great equalizer, it doesn’t matter whether you are rich or poor, ugly or beautiful, privileged or not…you are equal to your opponent and superior if you can win.
Mr. Mukumba is not without his own agenda, while giving these children a place to learn squash, he seeks to find those rare gems who might rise above all others and become champions locally, in county and even nationally. He encourages openly that excellence in this game can mean pursuing a career playing professionally on the international circuit. His number 1 player and Zimbabwe’s national number 1, Ishmael Mubure, whom he has coached and who is part of his “trust”, coaching youngsters like he once was, recently won the Dunlop Open in the Netherlands and has won some other events s like Saxon and Kenyan Open. He could be much higher ranked than his 360 PSA ranking , according to Mr. Mukumba , but there’s not enough funding to get him additional coaching and more international exposure.
The academy is in desperate need of equipment like clothing, shoes, racquets, eyewear, balls. Well wishers from Canada squash donated 100 racquets which were a great gift from their Canadian Squash brothers because the little equipment the Academy does have is shared and worn out. When you look at the pictures of his children in the Academy they arenot unlike any other squash academies around the world, the children proudly hold their rackets and grin ear to ear, he has brought these expressions of pride and hope to children through our great game, children who otherwise might never experience the immense joy of accomplishing and overcoming obstacles, no matter how great or small in their lives.
Mr. Mukumba has many years coaching experience and is very active on the international coaching platform having attended conferences to learn about this game the latest developments and coaching techniques. Make no mistake, his efforts are all about squash and using squash to produce squash players, to remove the privileged aura of this game and make it anyone’s right who has an interest and aptitude for it. His mission is to feed these kids ball after ball to teach them proper footwork, sportsmanship and those rare players who show motivation and talent to rise above the rest to support their efforts to pursue squash as a profession. While he has this vision, he knows the realities of operating costs. Sustaining this vision with equipment, transportation, since many kids live far away from the suburbs where these courts are, courts, fees and snacks takes money. Anyone who can bring squash to the people, so to speak, deserves support and encouragement whatever that might be.
Squashdashersbashers is collecting rackets, balls, eye wear and preparing a shipment to Mr. Mukumba’s academy. If you would like to know more about this great squash initiative, please contact Mr. Mukumba (Zimbabwe Squash Academy) or (

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