50 Shades of Greats: Snooker referee Terry Camilleri
Simon Farrugia Sunday, 17 May 2020
Terry Camilleri was born on 19 January 1974. He hails from and lives in the small village of Kalkara. He is married to Elaine and has two children, Thomas and Emma. He made a name for himself and for our country through the game of snooker and today he is considered as one of the world’s best referees.
Contrary to nowadays childhood in the 80s was much different. Recalling his early days Terry, the sixth personality to be interviewed for this column, had this to say: “My childhood was very basic and normal at my time. I come from a family of three brothers of which I am the eldest. I grew up in the period when life was much easy and when we used to go outside to play with other friends for most of the time. It was when socialising was as it should be, playing physically with friends and meeting new friends and speaking to friends face to face. Unfortunately this is very different than the online world we are living in today, especially as children.”
Looking back at his school days, as was the normal practice, Terry attended primary school at his hometown in Kalkara. “The school was just round the corner from our house but then I moved to De La Salle College for my secondary school. I then continued my studies in finance which it is where I ended up working with a private company.”
But how did it all start? From where did this interest in the game of snooker begin? Camilleri gave us an insight of his love to this sport. “My interest in snooker started when my father, as a carpenter, made us a snooker table at home. I fell immediately in love with the sport, but never imagined myself reaching the position I have today! I also remember watching Pot Black, a UK production, broadcast on our local channel. We used to struggle a bit because at that time TV was black and white, until I remember my grandmother getting a coloured one and we used to gather to watch it on colour TV!
Apart from snooker, Terry also had a passion for other sports. “I was always a sport lover in general. I am a football fan and used to love playing as well, with village friends and at school. I am also fond of the national Regatta and also managed to take part in it, where I achieved a second and a third place in two races. Furthermore, I am also a motorsport enthusiast.”
Though playing the game of snooker was his passion Camilleri had an orientation to start officiating games. He recounts how all this happened. “My career started when as a youth, I used to play snooker at our local youth centre. Then in 1990, I heard that a tournament was going to be organised in Malta, which was the first ever Pro-Am Tournament, which had local players and Tony Drago as a professional player. For this tournament the Malta Billiards and Snooker Association was organising a rules’ refresher course to all snooker players by a senior referee from the UK. I decided to apply to get to know the rules better and at the end of the course there was an option to take a referee exam. I sat for the exam and qualified as a Class 3 snooker referee.”
The association wanted qualified referees to take charge of some matches in this tournament. “I accepted and this was the first step I took in my career. This tournament started being organised every year and I ended up being part of the referees’ pool. Year after year snooker in Malta was becoming increasingly successful, thanks to the Association and snooker promotions and the fact that more top UK players were coming over to participate in these tournaments.”
“Moreover, more UK referees were coming to Malta for their refresher courses. After being assessed by senior UK referees, I was asked to go to the UK to referee some matches at qualifying stages. And after a couple of years I was asked to be part of a team of professional referees and referee tournaments at the top level. After consultation with my wife and family, I decided to go ahead. It was not an easy decision as I had to spend a lot of time abroad without my family. My career continued to grow over the years and eventually developed me in one of the top referees in the world of snooker.”
In fact his experiences took him to the pinnacle of this sport. “I had a lot of experiences in my career which most of them are on the positive side. Some of them are obviously refereeing various prestigious finals of big tournaments, not just in the UK but all over the world. Obviously among various finals, some stand out in particular – the Triple Crown tournaments, the UK Championship and the Masters, which I fondly cherish.
Camilleri kept on going down memory lane. “I also have great experiences by being in charge of four maximum breaks, the famous 147. I was also lucky to referee the 100 centuries in one season of Neil Robertson and the 1,000 carrier centuries of Ronnie O’Sullivan, which are both unique in the history books until today. Obviously one also has some bad days. Although there are only a few of them I still consider them part of my learning curve.”
You made it to the top in the international field. How did you succeed in doing it? “I made it to the top with a lot of learning through the years. I have learnt a lot from my assessors. It was not an easy ride as I had to spend a lot of time abroad without my family. Sometimes you start missing them and your home country but you have to keep strong and show your determination. I have taken my success and opportunities gradually.”
Camilleri is very grateful to all those who helped him during his career as a referee which successfully grew every year and which developed him in one of the top referees in the world of snooker. This was achieved by sheer determination, professionalism, dedication, commitment and a lot of sacrifices.
Terry explains what it means for a referee from a small country like Malta being on the tour with the best professional snooker players. “As a Maltese to be in this position gives me unexplainable pride. I feel very proud and satisfied when I tell people on our circuit and all snooker fans from all over the world that I am from Malta. I feel that from a small island to be included in the top list of referees in the world is something special. A proud moment is when you are introduced as a Maltese referee in front of all the spectators in the arena and to millions of television viewers. Also a great feeling is when meeting people in the street which recognise me and tell me, we watch snooker because you are a Maltese like us, and we ended up enjoying snooker.”
But how is your relationship with the players and fellow referees? “Relationship with players and fellow referees is very good; we are very sociable between us off the table. For me it is my second family. We travel together and we are very close and ready to help one another.”
Snooker, like all other sports, was hardly hit by the COVID-19 pandemic, among others the World Championships played at the famous Crucible in Sheffield.
How is the snooker world coping with the situation? “Yes at the moment, like all other sport, snooker is suspended. I think it was the best decision for everyone in the current situation. Obviously many tournaments were cancelled, among them, the World Championship, which hopefully some arrangements are being done to play the tournament in the coming summer, if things obviously get better.
Is the future of snooker, both in Malta and abroad, being hard hit by today’s technological life? “I think snooker at the moment is at its peak. We have a lot of tournaments being organised all over the world and also broadcasting snooker on TV has increased the followers drastically. In Malta, snooker is getting back to its glory days as we have passed a period where it was going downhill. Since the opening of the Snooker Academy here in Malta, thanks to a lot of people working for this with the help of Sports Malta, snooker is being developed in the correct way again and hopefully in the future we will have some players who will make it to the top professional circuit.”
Behind a successful man there is always a woman. That’s how the saying goes. But for Terry it’s not just a saying. “Family is my precious jewel. I really owe a lot to my wife who is very supportive and also with regards to me being abroad a lot of the time; she had a big responsibility in bringing up and caring for our children.”
Taking a more personal side I asked Terry what is his favourite food. “I like every type of food but I certainly would choose Mediterranean. With my condition as a celiac I cannot eat everything so I have to be very careful especially when we are travelling with regards to food.”
Snooker took him to different parts of the globe but which country does he consider as his favourite destination? “I consider the UK as my second home country now, but I like travelling to all other destinations. Every country has its own beauty and characteristics.”
Though Camilleri has a very hectic life, does he have time for hobbies? “I enjoy watching football and especially go to watch Manchester United playing when I can. Also I like to go and watch the Malta National Team matches. Having said this I enjoy watching any sport on TV. I consider myself a sports maniac!”
And when Terry has some free time on his hands, away from the world of sport what does he like doing? “I enjoy doing maintenance work at home which makes me relax a lot. Also going for a walk with my family around my home town Kalkara, which is part of the beautiful Grand Harbour, is also a must. I am also a member of a Scout Group. I enjoy doing voluntary work with our group which is one of the biggest on the island at the moment. I am a member of the committee, which takes care and helps out in organising fund-raising events, camps and other functions. Although it is not an easy job to do, it is very relaxing for me as I meet up with some true friends and also gives me an unexplainable feeling in doing voluntary work.”
One final word to the young generation. “My advice is to be dedicated and enjoy doing their favourite sport, in our case snooker. You have to work hard to achieve. Nothing comes easy and success has to be gained by your abilities, dedication and professionalism. Humility should be a priority in life and always to remain humble, then recognition and success will come your way.”