HK's Shum in disgrace for striking opponent

HONG Kong's top locally-born player Andrew Shum Siu-chung faces a lengthy ban from the sport after he was thrown out of the New Zealand Open for striking his opponent yesterday.

Shum was trailing 15-8, 15-8, 13-7 in his match against Campbell Barbour when he showed his frustration and hit the 21-year-old New Zealander in the side with the handle of his racquet.

Referee Peter Highsted did not hesitate in disqualifying the Hong Kong Sports Institute scholarship athlete, although Barbour was not injured.

''We were close together and suddenly I felt a jab in my side,'' Barbour said.

''He had given me what you might call a short-arm jab with the handle of his racquet.

''I took exception and he was most apologetic, but the referee disqualified him.'' Shum, whose earnings of US$150 as a first-round loser were withheld until his case has been considered by the International Squash Players' Association, said later he regretted his action.

''I was playing so badly,'' said the 23-year-old. ''It just happened in a second, and I felt so sorry afterwards.

''Please let everyone know I'm so sorry.'' ISPA will be holding an inquiry into the incident and Shum could face a lengthy suspension under the sport's code of conduct if he is found guilty of showing violence.

Australian player Mark Carlyon, the ISPA representative at the tournament, which is being held in Auckland, said the association's disciplinary body would consider the referee's report.

But he added that Shum's reputation as a mild-mannered player with no history of misconduct could work in his favour.

The news came as a shock to local officials.

Hong Kong Squash Racquets Association executive secretary Heather Deayton said: ''I just couldn't believe it.

''Andrew's never ever done anything like this before. It's probably an unthinking reaction. I'm sure he didn't mean to hurt his opponent.'' Deayton said the association would ask the player for an explanation and they would also study the ISPA report on the incident.

She said: ''I'm sure ISPA will have an inquiry as they definitely will not tolerate such misconduct.

''We'll have to wait for their report but Andrew will also be asked for an explanation.'' Tony Choi Yuk-kwan, the HKSRA's coaching director and Shum's arch-rival since their school days, also expressed surprise at the player's violent outburst.

Choi said: ''It's unfair to Andrew to say anything at this moment without knowing exactly what happened.

''I'm interested to know what went on because Andrew and I have been playing together for eight years and he's never struck anybody before.'' Shum, whose Oceania trip was financed by the HKSI, is likely to face a local inquiry when he returns to the territory after the Australian Open in two weeks' time.

HKSI chief executive Paul Brettell said: ''I'll have to check it out tomorrow and to be fair to Andrew I'm not saying anything at this stage.

''We will obviously be having a very close look at the incident with the HKSRA when he comes back.'' National coach Chris Clark was not available for comment last night as he is leading a junior squad on a development tour to New Zealand.

However, they are not in Auckland where the New Zealand Open is being held.

Shum, 80th on the ISPA chart, is number two in the Hong Kong national team to Pakistan-born Faheem Khan.

He has been playing in professional tournaments for four years but it was only recently that he announced his retirement from coaching to commit himself to the professional circuit.

The New Zealand Open and Australian Open are part of the buildup for what will be the biggest moment to date in his fledgling career, his first appearance in the hugely popular Cathay Pacific-Unisys Hong Kong Open, which starts on August 22.

Shum has played in the qualifiers of the Hong Kong tournament but never made it through to the main draw. He was, however, given a wild card for the event this year.