Pakistani squash player, Naveed Rehman, talks about mentors, the legacy of squash in Pakistan, and being a professional athlete during Ramadan.
Liam Parker: Can you talk about your background, early years, and life outside of sport?
Naveed Rehman: My name is Naveed Rehman, I belong to a Pashtun family. I originate from Swabi in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province of Pakistan and currently live in Karachi as my father is employed here.
How did you get into squash? Do you excel at any other sports?
I started playing squash at the age of 11. My elder brother Junaid Rehman used to play squash. He once brought me to the squash courts and after that I insisted to play the game. As a kid I did not like to study so I started playing squash regularly. I was not a big fan of the game initially, and I was playing to get away from academic studies. I am a huge fan of cricket and earlier in my life I wanted to play cricket instead of squash, as I’m a very good bowling allrounder. I am a quick learner, and as soon I started playing [squash regularly] and giving time to the sport my father saw some great potential in me to be a good player.
Pakistan has a rich history of squash, with Jahangir and Jansher Khan dominating the men’s game in the 80s and 90s. Do you believe we’ll see Pakistani players amongst the best in the world again? What’s the path to getting there?
Pakistan has produced so many squash legends like Jahangir, Jansher, Qamar Zaman, Hashim Khan, Azam Khan and many more. We do have world class players like Nasir Iqbal and Tayyab Aslam. and they only need a right path to be among the top ranked in the world again.
How have you balanced sport and education so far in life?
It is very difficult to manage study and sports together. When I was in school, my routine was I would go to school in the morning, after school I’d come home, have lunch and then to the squash courts for training, at 8 o’clock I came back home and do homework and go to bed to be ready for the next day.
Have you had any mentors who have helped in your career?
When I started playing squash my father, Faqir Rehman, was my coach for the first three years and after that I used to take private lessons from different coaches. In 2018, Jahangir Khan Squash Academy formed in which I got selected by trials which was also on for about 18-20 months until Covid-19. So my father was my mentor and my coach and everything possible he can do for me to get better he has. It was my father’s will for me to become a professional squash player and to bring back the old squash alive when we [Pakistan] used to dominate in this sport. So yeah my father and my family help me motivate through out the time. During Covid, I got very ill and took medication for about 8 months which affected my squash career and I was thinking of retiring from the sport at one point but my family and especially my father motivated me to continue.
What are your goals for the next season? Are there any tournaments you’re looking forward to?
My goal is to go as high as possible this season in the world rankings as I lost many ranking points and did not play many tournaments over the last 2 years. I will be playing any tournament if I get place as I am very in the ranking these days.
Who is your favourite player, and why?
My favourite squash player is Ali Farag because I like the way he plays, his court movement and court covering and shot selection. I also try to copy him.
What’s on your music playlist at the moment?
I listen to music too often and most of the time when I listen to it, I listen to motivational songs which help me do more to achieve my goal.
How do you manage being a professional athlete during Ramadan?
During Ramadan I can only play after iftar because during the daytime I’m fasting and the weather is also hot here in Karachi. I only do a little bit of court training and play as many games as possible because we only have 3 hours per day to play for all the players.