By Syed Khalid Mahmood
Iran’s Hossein Vafaei Ayouri, who clinched the world crown last December in Bangalore, India, by defeating Lee Walker of Wales in the final, will be the top seed as well as the hot favorite in the championship.
Alamgir Anwar Shaikh, President, Pakistan Billiards & Snooker Association (PBSA), is mighty relieved by the arrival of the Indians in particular as their participation remained doubtful until the eleventh hour, due to the delay in issuance of the necessary clearance from the concerned authorities.
With the Jubilee Insurance 7-Nation International Snooker Championship 2012, the international snooker returns to Pakistan after nearly five years. The sponsors, Jubilee General Insurance, are eager to have a major event like this once in two years, if not annually.
The Pakistan snooker has found a willing sponsor in Jubilee General Insurance. Their Managing Director, Tahir Ahmed, remains a source of continued motivation for the Alamgir Shaikh-led PBSA.
Jubilee Insurance will be paying a sponsorship fee of Rs 3.5 million to the PBSA for the 7-nation contest, whose total cost, as declared by its President, will be Rs 3.2 million. The winner of the championship will be getting a purse of US$2,000 while the runner-up will be receiving US$1,000 and the highest break carries a cash award of US$100.
Meanwhile two cueists each from Bahrain, Egypt, India, Iran, Thailand and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) will compete alongside the top eight Pakistanis in the six-day event.
The 20 participants have been divided equally in four groups. The Group A contains the world champion from Iran, Hossein Vafaei Ayouri, alongside Naveen Perwani (Pakistan), Hussain Mahmood Ali (Bahrain), Noppon Saengkham (Thailand) and Sharjeel Mahmood (Pakistan).
The Group B features Thepchaiya Un-Nooh (Thailand), Mohammad Sajjad (Pakistan), Mohammad Faisal Khan (India), Habib Subah (Bahrain) and Vishan Gir (Pakistan) while the Group C comprises of Yasin Merchant (India), Sultan Mohammad (Pakistan), Mohamed Ibrahim Mohamed (Egypt); Mohammed Al Joaker (UAE) and Sohail Shahzad (Pakistan) and the Group D has the presence of Mohammed Mustafa Shehab (UAE), Mohammad Asif (Pakistan), Saeed Abooyesani (Iran), Yaser Ahmed M. Elsherbiny (Egypt) and Abdul Sattar (Pakistan).
The eight seeded cueists in the championship, whose league matches will continue for three days until Tuesday, are Hossein Vafaei Ayouri (Iran), Thepchaiya Un-Nooh (Thailand), Yasin Merchant (India), Mohammed Mustafa Shehab (UAE), Noppon Saengkham (Thailand), Habib Subah (Bahrain), Mohammed Al Joaker (UAE) and Yaser Ahmed M. Elsherbiny (Egypt).
There will be only two sessions on the opening day of the event, starting at 12 noon, while there will be four sessions on the following two days, Monday and Tuesday, with the first session starting at 10 am. The league matches, to be best of seven-frame encounters, will be followed by the knockout games, starting from quarter-finals.