Asif’s feat heralds new dawn for snooker
MOHAMMAD Asif’s phenomenal rise to the top of ladder in the world amateur snooker championship in the Bulgarian city of Sofia was the silver lining of the eventful year that has just gone by.
Capturing a world title in the presence of Thai, Iranian, Chinese and Indian cueists to name a few is no mean achievement. He beat England’s Gary Wilson 10-8 in the best of 19 frames final to enter his name in the annals of the game.
A native of Faisalabad, the 30-year-old Asif has made his mark in a short span of his international career which began in 2009 when he won the maiden national title though he started playing the game in 2002.
Earlier in the year, he had back-to-back dismal runs — first in the seven-nation international tournament in Karachi in March followed by the 28th Asian Snooker Championship at Doha next month.
At home, he suffered 2-6 defeat at the hands of former world champion Thepchaiya Un-Nooh in semi-finals while at Doha he failed to advance to knockout pre quarter-finals. The Asian final, was, however, turned out to be an all-Indian affair in which Aditya Mehta beat former world amateur champion Punkaj Advani 7-5 to bask the glory.
However, after two successive failures the Pakistan No 1 cueist finally succeeded to reach first final of an international event in the pre-world contest at Dubai before bowing out to another Thai Noppon Saengkham.
The performance he had displayed at Dubai was true indicator that something big was in store for him provided he play up to his true potential in Sofia which he did.
Meanwhile, Asif had a pleasant run in the domestic circuit winning two of the four national ranking tournaments besides finishing runner-up in one. This enthralling performance kept him on top of the national ranking throughout the year. The
remaining two events were annexed by Asjad Iqbal.
At the outset, Lady Luck smiled on Asif when he inflicted 8-2 defeat on Sindh’s Sultan Mohammad in the final played at Karachi Gymkhana to recapture national title in Feb. In the NBP Cup that followed, he went down to former national junior champion Asjad 4-7 in the final at Defence Authority Creek Club.
In the third ranking event — the Jubilee Insurance championship in June — Asjad again toppled him, this time in the semi-final 6-4 before inflicting 7-2 defeat on Shehram Changezi to win back-to-back honours. Asif bounced back capturing the fourth ranking title by getting the better of Asjad at the NBP Sports Complex.
On the junior front, Hunain Amir crowned national under-21 champion brushing aside Mohammad Majid Ali 5-2 in the final played at Lahore. Reaching the final earned them tickets for the Asian under-21 event at Goa, India, where both met their fate in the last-16 round.
Again, the two travelled to Wuxi, China, to compete in the IBSF world under-21 snooker championship where they were eliminated in the last-32 round.
The two players were again sent to Thailand where they undergone three weeks coaching from WPBSA-certified coaches.
In addition, Asjad and Umair Alam were also sent to Thailand to attend month long coaching course separately while international referee Shabbir Hussain Daruwala attended short course for coaches.
In the annual general meeting held at the fag end of the year, the nomenclature of Pakistan Billiards and Snooker Association (PBSA) was changed to Pakistan Billiards and Snooker Federation (PBSF) in addition to making amendment in constitution extending term of office-bearers from two to four years to fulfill the requirement of the POA for affiliation.
Incumbent Alamgir Shaikh was unanimously re-elected president so does the secretary Munawwar Hussain Shaikh. Both are in the office since 2008.
Alamgir has fit in the shoes of his predecessor Asghar Valika and is running the circuit to the best of his abilities in spite of paucity of funds. He has a hand in Asif’s gold medal winning feat as he has personally financed the trip of the two cueists, Asjad
being the other.
Hats off to him!
Alamgir’s other notable achievement was possession of piece of land from the Karachi Metropolitan Corporation (KMC) for snooker academy which, upon completion, will go a long way in unearthing new talent.
As 2013 has already started, the PBSF looks forward to hosting the Asian snooker championship in the city and may produce another Asian champion.