On October 12th at 5:00 pm at the Gizera sports club near downtown Cairo, the opening ceremony made a big impression on players and spectators: "I never thought it was going to be like the Olympics." "It's fantastic". "They had a flawless ceremony". Those were some of the comments of the players.
The American team looked very elegant, thanks to Sherif Abdelwahab, who bought for the team white polo shirts emblazoned with the American flag.
Sherif was voted team captain, because he has played croquet longer than any of us, and his recent accomplishments have been outstanding.
There is a lot of media attention. On the first day of the tournament I gave two television and four printed press interviews. The most common question asked is, "How do you feel playing against your native country?" My answer has to be diplomatic.
AMERICAN TEAM SCORES BIG WINS TO PROCEED TO SECOND ROUND
The American team had a very good first round. The American players beat last year's top three players in the World Championship. I defeated 7/3 Khalid Younis, who won the first Golf Croquet World Championship last year in Italy, in an exciting contest which was considered the biggest game in the first round. The game was played in Gizera, my home club before I emigrated to the USA. I received a very warm welcome from the crowd in the opening ceremonies and strong support during my games.
At one point in the big game with Khalid, the score was tied 3/3, and at one-back I broke the face of my mallet and Khalid was in control with two balls near the hoop. I managed to hit two long shots from the south boundary and then stole the hoop from the north boundary to go up 4/3 and then finish the game 7/3 - a big upset in my favor, since I haven't had a chance to practice since playing in the Sonoma-Cutrer World Championship last May.
In spite of the big win against Khalid, i lost two other games, but was still able to qualify for the second round - as did every member of the U.S. team.
U.S. team member Ihab Abdelwahab narrowly defeated 7/6 Salah Hassan, last year's 3rd place, in a very exciting game. He successfully protected his one-point lead throughout the game. The win is especially noteworthy because this is Ihab's first tournament, and he finished on top of his block.
Mark Najarian (the only non-Egyptian-born U.S. team member) defeated Hisham Abousbaa on his own home club turf and strongly supported by his fans. Mark finished on top of his block.
Sherif had two tough losses in the first round but managed to use his experience and to regroup to qualify for the second round.
The American team is staying at the Meridian Hotel. We have a beautiful view overlooking the Nile. There is a very strong team camaraderie among us.
AMERICANS GUARANTEED TWO SPOTS IN QUARTER-FINALS
The Americans won their games in the second round in a very strong fashion, winning all the best-of-three matches 2/0 to reach the 3rd round - the "round of sixteen". We are therefore guaranteed two spots in the quarter-finals.
Mark Najarian will have to play against me, and the Abdelwahabs will play each other.
Everyone is pleased with the efforts of the Egyptians in mounting their first world championship event. Everything has been meticulously taken care of. The volunteers are very helpful and friendly. The spectators supported the guests and sometimes gave them tips before the games.
The only problem with the organization of the tournament was that the position of the qualifiers in the second round was not announced until after the end of the first round to prevent players from avoiding certain positions. This led to objections from some players when they found out that they will meet their own countrymen in the second round. The organizers had to accomodate the players, and that resulted in some confusion. But I think that the end result was satisfactory to everyone.
MATCH RESULTS OF SECOND ROUND OF PLAY
Egypt, Palestine, and the United States qualified all their players to continue to the knockout round. The top four players in each group below qualified.
[Look for further stories on the championship from our special correspondent in Cairo as the tournament proceeds to the Saturday finals.]
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