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Pakistan's first-ever Under-18 Snooker World Champion arrives home in Sahiwal

Naseem Akhtar won the IBSF World Championship after beating China's Peifan Lei 5-3.
Updated Jul 20, 2017 07:15pm

Naseem Akhtar, the first-ever Pakistani cueist to win a junior title, has arrived home to a warm welcome in Sahiwal.

Boys who played snooker in different localities in Sahiwal are amongst Naseem’s greatest admirers. They welcomed him upon his arrival and gave him a ride to different parts of the city. — Photo by author
Boys who played snooker in different localities in Sahiwal are amongst Naseem’s greatest admirers. They welcomed him upon his arrival and gave him a ride to different parts of the city. — Photo by author

Akhtar [won the International Billiards and Snooker Federation (IBSF) Under-18 Snooker World Championship ][title in Beijing after beating China's Peifan Lei 5-3 in a 'best of nine frames' game.

He had earlier triumphed 4-0 against Israel's Amir Nardeia to reach the finals. ​

The day Naseem became a world champion, his father, brothers and neighbours celebrated his win in the neighbourhood. — Photo by author
The day Naseem became a world champion, his father, brothers and neighbours celebrated his win in the neighbourhood. — Photo by author

The Chinese cueist had taken an early 3-0 lead in the game, but Akhtar came back with aggression to win the next five sets back-to-back and seize a stunning victory.

Talking to the media, Naseem said he wants to see a professional snooker academy in Sahiwal and the availability of professional snooker coaches. — Photo by author
Talking to the media, Naseem said he wants to see a professional snooker academy in Sahiwal and the availability of professional snooker coaches. — Photo by author

Expressing pleasure at his big win, Akhtar thanked the Snooker Association for their support and the Pakistani people for their prayers.

Akhtar, along with his coach, Muhammad Shahbaz (left). Shahbaz is the owner of Sahiwal's City Snooker Club, and is credited with discovering Akhtar's talents. — Photo by author
Akhtar, along with his coach, Muhammad Shahbaz (left). Shahbaz is the owner of Sahiwal's City Snooker Club, and is credited with discovering Akhtar's talents. — Photo by author

Shahbaz convinced Naseem’s family to allow him to compete in different competitions in various cities of Punjab. — Photo by author
Shahbaz convinced Naseem’s family to allow him to compete in different competitions in various cities of Punjab. — Photo by author

Talking to DawnNews Naseem said his passion for snooker was initially discouraged by his elder brothers and father, but he persevered and never gave up his love for the game.

"Snookers clubs and tables are not considered good places for young boys in Pakistan. I have always argued that no sport is intrinsically wrong or right — they are just games that provide youngsters an opportunity to explore their talents," the young snooker champion said.

Akhtar at the City Snooker Club, which is located in the Fateh Sher Market of Sahiwal. This is the billiard club where he practiced daily for seven to eight hours for the past three years. — Photo by author
Akhtar at the City Snooker Club, which is located in the Fateh Sher Market of Sahiwal. This is the billiard club where he practiced daily for seven to eight hours for the past three years. — Photo by author

Akhtar is the youngest of six brothers, with a sister following him. The champion’s elder brothers, Usman and Qamar, also snooker players, supported the young star financially in his travels to Lahore and Karachi at the age of 15 and 16.

Naseem being greeted by his friends, family and neighbours upon arriving home. — Photo by author
Naseem being greeted by his friends, family and neighbours upon arriving home. — Photo by author