Egyptian squash star Kanzy Emad El Dafrawy at the Al Areesh Club
Egyptian squash star Kanzy Emad El Dafrawy at the Al Areesh Club Image Credit: Supplied

While the UAE continues to grab the attention as the Middle East’s sporting capital — from football to UFC, F1 to cricket and even padel tennis — there is one sport that is flying a little under the radar but growing in popularity day on day.

Egyptian squash star Kanzy Emad El Dafrawy launched the nation’s first squash academy in May, and demand has been so high that she has already branched out and now has three venues aimed at reaching the next generation of talent in the region.

Kanzy — a former national champion in Egypt and the United States and former world No. 22 — is known as ‘The Flying DAF’ and has taken that name to brand her academy in Dubai.

Kanzy was forced to give up on her dream of becoming the world No. 1 squash player when her time at the top was cut short by a serious back injury. However, that setback failed to dim her passion for squash, and now she is actively paying it forward to kids across the UAE with her academy venues, backed by nine professional coaches.

After setting up in May in the Jumeirah community amid a stretch of beachfront hotels, with two venues at Jumeirah Beach Hotel and Jumeirah Mina A’Salam, allowing kids and aspiring players access to top-level coaching at five courts, Kanzy soon realised there was another issue — location, location, location.

A lot of her students were travelling from far afield and the notorious Dubai traffic meant getting to and from Jumeirah was a bit of an issue. So, just like in her playing days, Kanzy met the issue head-on and decided to bring the game to them.

After months of planning, she now has her third academy venue, which has been set up at Al Areesh Club in Festival City, not only giving existing students an easier option in terms of travel but opening up opportunities to allow squash to reach a whole new audience.

“This sports club at Al Areesh was a perfect fit for us to expand,” Kanzy told Gulf News. “We launched on October 16 and now run alongside swimming, football and kung-fu academies.

“I always listen to my clients and they told me the biggest issue was travel, so I came up with a solution after hearing about this club. They have two perfect squash courts, and now some of my students do not have to face a long trek to Jumeirah.

“Not only are we catering to our existing clients, we have a chance here to pay it forward and discover a whole new generation of talent. The Al Areesh club is right next door to the American Universal School and we have partnered with them to enrol interested students in our programmes and unearth the next stars right here in the UAE.

“First and foremost, we are all about community and social interaction and this location is a perfect fit. Not only will it help enhance the kids we have on board already, but it will show how we are growing the social aspect of squash as a whole and we are already seeing results, with the smiles, laughs and education — all part and parcel of our end goal.”

The Flying DAF Squash Academy offers coaching classes, membership access to court bookings, monthly tournaments for all levels. The academy is accepting membership enquiries, with court bookings available from Friday. Opening hours are 8am to 10pm.