For more than a decade, Azlan Iskandar was Malaysia’s greatest pride, ranked by the Professional Squash Association (PAS) as one of the top ten players in the globe. Despite his retirement in 2012, Azlan has continued giving back to the community by introducing squash to rural areas through his organisation, Azlan Iskandar Squash Academy. “While most trainers are looking to make champions, I believe that sports can help create opportunities for rural children to break free from the vicious circle of poverty,” he replies.
Currently running a sports events company called Sportspin Athlete and Event Management, Azlan has recently added a new milestone to his already impressive list of accomplishments. In a short period of three months, this former professional player was able to put the PSA Women’s World Championship, which was initially scheduled to take place late last year, back into the calendar. “When the championship was called off, Khairy (the Youth and Sports Minister of Malaysia) called me up and asked if I was keen to help revive the tournament. Frankly, I had been fiddling with the idea for some time. So when he came up to me, I said yes. And that’s how Sportspin became involved in one of the biggest squash tournaments ever,” he says matter-of-factly.
Scheduled to be held at the Bukit Jalil Stadium from 23rd - 30th April 2016, the match will see the world’s top female players battling it out for the world crown. “This championship is a pretty big deal for all of the female athletes out there,” Azlan explains. “Also, one of the few reasons why I am going all out on this is because I think Malaysia has some remarkable world-class players. We’ve got Nicole, Delia, Wee Wern... Overall, we have good Malaysian dominance hence, it became the extra push and incentive for me to ensure that this event happens in Kuala Lumpur.”
Not a person to bask in the limelight, Azlan has been vigorously working behind the scenes since his commitment, composing proposals one after another to raise the necessary funds needed from the private sector in time for the big day. “Unlike the small-scale, local events my company is accustomed to, this (the Women’s World Championship) is set at a whole new level. Because it is an international affair, there are a lot of protocols and procedures laid down by the PSA. Of course, sponsorship difficulties are nothing new. But with the assistance of the Ministry of Youth and Sports and SRAM (the Squash Racquets Association of Malaysia), we have managed to raise approximately USD 230,000, with 32-field for the main draw!” he exclaims.
“Currently, we have Naza group as our main sponsor. We have Peugeot, Citroën and Le Méridien Kuala Lumpur on board as well. That aside, Citroën is giving the winner a brand new DS 4, which is awesome. I have to say that there has never been a women’s event this big, with a prize car in it!” Azlan adds. “To put it down, all the players are going to be treated like VIPs. Back in my day, such treatments were rare. I am really excited for the players. I guess you can say that I’m reliving everything I have wanted the past.”