RIDING the crest of a wave, Pakistan’s prolific cueist Mohammad Asif has done the nation proud yet again by winning the IBSF World Snooker title in Antalya, Turkey, on Saturday. Asif coasted to an 8-5 victory over unseeded Jefrey Roda of the Philippines in the final to clinch the coveted title for the second time in his career. The 37-year-old had first bagged the prestigious honour in 2012 in Sofia, Bulgaria, and has now joined the select group of just five cueists to have achieved the feat twice since the inception of the World Snooker Championship in 1963. To his credit, Asif never lost focus in the highly competitive tournament, displaying skill and precision to overcome some tough opponents en route to the final — including leading Thai player Kritsanut Lertsattayathorn in the semi-final.

It is ironic, though, that while the nation has rejoiced in Asif’s remarkable win, the game of snooker is unlikely to receive an official shot in the arm thanks to the neglectful treatment meted out to it by governments of yore. Pakistan emerged on the horizon of global snooker in 1994 when Mohammad Yousuf won the world title at Johannesburg. Since then, several cueists have won a number of laurels for Pakistan including Asif, Mohammad Saleh, Asjad Iqbal, Mohammad Bilal, Babar Masih and a few others. However, they have failed to get any support or appreciation, let alone incentives, and are often seen running from pillar to post to raise funds in order to compete internationally. It is hence that the original spirit of the sport is getting diminished. Most snooker parlours that had mushroomed in the late 1990s across the country have now closed down, while the sport’s parent body the Pakistan Billiards and Snooker Federation has struggled to get sponsorship for tours. Unlike cricket, hockey and squash which have experienced a downward trend in recent years, snooker has kept the Pakistan flag flying high. The government and private sector must realise the tremendous potential snooker holds and put their weight behind the cueists so that they can win more honours.

Published in Dawn, November 12th, 2019

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