MOHAMMAD Asif’s brilliant victory in the World Snooker Championship in Sofia, Bulgaria on Sunday has done the country proud. It has also underscored the potential that cueists here possess to excel at the international level. The feat by the Faisalabad-born Asif is all the more remarkable in view of the fact that he remained unbeaten throughout the event despite the presence of the world’s top cueists. A two-time national champion, Asif displayed superb control, skill and concentration to win the marathon nine-hour final, which was played over 19 frames, against Gary Wilson of England. However, Asif who is now being showered with accolades from all over, including by the country’s top leadership, would never even have featured in the prestigious event had it not been for the last-minute efforts of the game’s governing body, the Pakistan Billiards and Snooker Association. PBSA officials ran from pillar to post to get sponsorship for the Pakistani cueists after government quarters flatly refused to fund the team’s visit to Bulgaria.
Pakistan’s victory has once again revived memories of Mohammad Yousuf’s world title win in 1994 at Johannesburg which went on to establish the country as a major force in the baize sport around the world. Mohammad Yousuf’s win at the time gave a boost to the sport in Pakistan, with hundreds of billiards and snooker parlours mushrooming in almost all major cities. Besides, it inspired a number of talented players like Saleh Mohammad, Naveen Perwani and others to make a name for themselves on the world circuit. Since 2000, though, the game has been on the decline in the country as there have been no systematic efforts to either locally groom the cueists or send them abroad for coaching to hone their potential and get the best results in international tournaments. That is such a great shame.