In it ¡Hola!in the early 80s, a photo: Merry Martínez-Bordiugranddaughter of Francoplaying squash at home Antonio Sainzfather and grandfather of Carlos Sainz y Carlos Sainz Jr., who had built a private runway. It was him boom of sport in Spain. There were more than 500 tracks throughout the country, there were more than 10,000 federated members and the jet set was delivered, with Juan Carlos I as a regular practitioner. They say that he even challenged foreign leaders who visited him in Zarzuela to a match. And now that?
«Squash in Spain is in danger of extinction, it is disappearing. Years ago the slopes became the ideal place to set up a training room. spinning o de yoga o de crossfit and, little by little, we have run out. There are no important tournaments either, there is a lack of structure. If people like me get ahead it is because there are still two squash schools, in Barcelona and Santiago, which are among the best in the world,” he says. Iker Pajaresthe best squash player in Spain, currently in the Top 25 of the world ranking, whose spirit is contradictory.
He should be euphoric because squash will be Olympic in the 2028 Los Angeles Games – along with flag football, cricket, lacrosse, baseball and softball – but the context is overwhelming. After all, there are only a few dozen courts left in the country, the number of federated members has fallen below 2,000 and squash is already outdated: last year, only 0.7% of Spaniards practiced it. , according to the Sports Habits Survey.
«With the little we have, it is a miracle what we get. With the Olympic Games there will be a big change, more budget, but a lot of investment will be needed in infrastructure and in popularizing squash again,” says Pajares, who is 27 years old and does not come from a family of players.
And, although it may be surprising because of the decline in squash in Spain, as a professional he makes a very, very good living. Elsewhere, the sport remains popular, with the world tour hosting around 20 tournaments a year and national leagues in countries such as Germany, France, Switzerland and Belgium often hiring foreign players for specific matches. «Within the Top 80 you already have enough to live on and the best in the world enter almost like a tennis player. In many places there is a lot of pull,” says Pajares.