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It was 'destiny' for Pakistan's world snooker champ

Published Dec 04, 2012 10:26am


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snooker, mohammad asif, world snooker championship
Mohammad Asif. -File photo

KARACHI: Pakistan's Mohammad Asif returned home to a hero's welcome on Tuesday after cueing his way to the world amateur snooker title in a campaign which nearly ended before it began.

Pakistan has been desperately short of sporting success stories in recent years and though the amateur championship may not have the glamour and profile of the professional event, politicians, fans and media have lavished praise on the country's only current world champion.

Asif held off England's Gary Wilson 10-8 in Sunday's low-key final in the Bulgarian capital Sofia – a far cry from the hallowed baizes of the Crucible where Ronnie O'Sullivan won his fourth professional world title in May – but he almost never made it to the tournament.

A shortage of funds meant the Pakistan Billiards and Snooker Federation (PBSF) had practically given up hope of sending players to the championship until a slew of personal donations allowed Asif to board the plane.

The 30-year-old from the eastern city of Faisalabad, who had never made it beyond the last 32 of the world championship, repaid the donors' generosity with a fairytale win – Pakistan's first in the tournament since 1994.

“I am blessed,” Asif said amid loud cheers from hundreds of fans who gathered at Karachi airport in the early hours to welcome the country's new hero.

“It's destiny, I could not have been there at all and here I am with the world trophy, it hasn't sunk in yet. I hope my success will inspire youngsters and snooker gets the same attention as cricket and hockey.”

Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf congratulated Asif, and TV cameras followed him from the moment he stepped off the plane in Karachi.

Almost all the major papers – English and Urdu – ran editorials hailing his achievement and urging the government to do more to support cue sports.

Before the tournament Asif declared it would be his last as it was becoming difficult to juggle playing tournaments and running his snooker club to support his family.

“I can't continue like this, because every time I have to ask for money from my family and it's time I either play on my own or quit,” he said.

As Pakistan's number one player and reigning national champion, Asif gets a monthly stipend from the PBSF of 8,000 rupees ($82), most of which goes on cues and kit.

Cricket is far and away the biggest sport in Pakistan, followed fanatically by tens of millions, with big-money sponsorship deals and top players appearing in commercials for everything from banking to shampoo.

Other sports in which Pakistan once excelled, notably hockey and squash, have slumped due to consistent government apathy and underinvestment in facilities, while snooker survives thanks to the efforts of dedicated amateur players and officials.

PBSF chairman Asghar Valika said he hoped Asif's win would raise the sport's profile in Pakistan.

“Asif's triumph is a good news for Pakistan snooker and I am hopeful that the sport will again be boosted and revived in the country,” he said.

PBSF president Alamgir Sheikh deplored the lack of funds available for the sport.

“We didn't get any co-operation from the government and the Pakistan Sports Board and in the end we had to collect funds from personal friends to send our players to Sofia,” Sheikh said.

It turned out to be an effort worth making.

“It was a tough final but I was determined to win,” said Asif, who aims to make his mark in the professional circuit provided he gets the support, and above all money.


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Comments (23) Closed

Parvez Dec 04, 2012 06:59pm
Kindly check your facts and correct the heading. He is the world AMATURE snooker champion. Not that we should not be proud of his achievement, which definately deserves praise.
Faraz Dec 04, 2012 10:42am
This man has the skills and guts to ruin the era of Ronnie O
chandra Dec 05, 2012 09:34am
congratulations. Support from Govt... ? Do they get it. India Olympic Association Suspended - Thanks to govt and politicians?
ImmI Dec 04, 2012 01:03pm
We all wish to make our country,a country on which we can actually proud.Want to take this country to that level of dignity and respect,that our hearts truly say "Proud to be a Pakistani".But how many of us have truly tried to become 'Asif'?Where is our dedication,our hard work and our patriotism,when it comes to our country. . ?Our country needs Asifs. . . . And well done one Asif of this country. . .!!!
tahseen khan Dec 04, 2012 12:46pm
well done, Asif you really made us proud,...
ST Dec 05, 2012 03:12pm
Good Job!!!
scepticalidealist Dec 04, 2012 11:26am
Great to see someone pushing themselves to new heights. Sad to see however that this nation's recent sporting achievements are in such a sorry state of affairs that even a amateur world championship is lauded and given such extensive media coverage.
Shahzad Dec 05, 2012 05:22am
Good Job. Government should support the sports like snookers to encourage existing and new comers
SJ Dec 04, 2012 12:41pm
Excellent. Superb. Amazing talent.
skeptic Dec 04, 2012 11:37am
turn professional dude. I hope you find sponsors to send you on the professional circuit. People like Mr Mian Mansha or other big business persons will do a great service to their country to sponsor talents like Asif.
Adeel Dec 04, 2012 10:59am
Very well done!
Cyrus Howell Dec 04, 2012 03:29pm
Amazing talent at a difficult game.
Ghazanfar Ajaz Dec 04, 2012 10:40am
Superb Job Asif you are a Hero and role model for people who always complain about limited resources. Where there is a will there is a way . Keep up the good work Asif I love snooker and i foresee 20 years ago that pakistan would top one day because no nation can match our will for success.
Jawaid Dec 04, 2012 12:00pm
Well done Asif, you made us all very proud.
Mehmood Ghaznavi Dec 04, 2012 04:24pm
Good news after many years.Great job by Asif despite lake of funding ,courage ,support from government and people who always forget their heros in in one night .God bless him and hope he make brilliant future for himself and for Pakistan.
Fahid Dec 05, 2012 04:35am
PEPSI: Ye Kheel bi apna hey !
HS Dec 05, 2012 04:58am
Hats off to Asif, something to be proud of and what a relief for a self degraded and a very poorly perceived nation of ours internationally and in sports particularly
ASAD Dec 05, 2012 11:32am
Yasir San Jose, Ca Dec 04, 2012 07:06pm
Pakistan need to have grass root development to have future players in this sport. Pakistan sport board need to cough up some money for school programs to develop snooker in Pakistan.
Saad (DXB) Dec 05, 2012 06:24pm
It's AMATEUR Mr. English.. Not AMATURE
Javaid Dec 06, 2012 03:12am
Kindly check your spellings of amature vs amateur. A google search revealed the following : " The proper spelling is still "amateur." The word was first borrowed from French in the late 18th century, but it still retains the "-eur" ending to this day. The spelling "amature" seems to be a fairly common misspelling of the word, and if you do not know how to spell it, it is a reasonable guess at the spelling, since there are many other words in English that do end in "-ure," such as "future." "
N K Ali Dec 06, 2012 04:14am
Asif's victory is very different from the gamut of violence wrecking the city of Karachi Shareef and other cities in Pakistan. Asif has shown that the GOP is nothing save a cohort of glory hunters without an iota of responsibility towards financial contribution. The private sector and the young citizens of the country remain the spark for the higher elevation of our country. Certainly, no politician or bureaucrat can be put in a position of responsibility if PRs. 8,000/= is the monthly stipend doled out to Asif to train and play in a World Cup. Salams
Ahmed Dec 07, 2012 08:58am
Where are the big sports clubs having snooker tables worth millions and charge in millions to get a membership? It is high time that both public and private sectors share responsibilities and support such talents.