Anthony Hamilton spoke to Phil Haig and it’s a really great interview:
Championship League Snooker is too soon, I don’t want to add to the problem, says Anthony Hamilton
Phil Haigh Thursday 28 May 2020
All credit to tournament organisers for getting Championship League Snooker on next week, but the event should not be going ahead yet, believes Anthony Hamilton.
The veteran cueman, who has been a professional since 1991, is sitting out of the behind closed doors event in Milton Keynes because he does not want the country to rush out of coronavirus lockdown.
64 players will compete in the Championship League from 1-11 June and they will do so in a highly steralised environment, with all players, staff and officials requiring a negative test for coronavirus to enter the venue.
Hamilton is impressed by the steps taken to ensure safety by WST chairman Barry Hearn and his team, but he still feels that lockdown should be respected rather than pushing for a way out of it.
‘It’s just a personal thing, I just think it’s too early to be going back to semi-normality, playing sports,’ the world number 48 told Metro.co.uk. ‘I think we should be in lockdown for another few weeks, a month or two, because obviously we need to get rid of this pandemic as quick as possible.
‘I have got asthma so I’m semi into the danger zone personally, but I think I’d be the same anyway, it’s just too early.
‘It’s amazing what Barry’s done, how he’s got ahead of the curve a little bit, to get sport on the TV, I think it’s a bit of a genius move from him. He knows how much people are missing sport at home, so that’s good for the sport.
‘I’ve had the emails about all the procedures about all the testing, the isolation at the hotel, everyone in the venue has been tested and is clear, it’s as safe an environment as they could have got. I was very impressed. It took me an hour to read it all.
‘It did bring me round a little bit but I thought to myself, “I don’t need to play in this tournament, especially at my age, there’s no ranking points, so no losing out to the rest of the tour.” I thought it would be a little bit greedy of me to play in it, the position I’m in now.
‘I also had a little word with myself because when I went over to the Gibraltar Open in March, pre-lockdown but I thought we shouldn’t be going. I was sat on the plane thinking, “we shouldn’t be going, we should be in lockdown” because it was all happening in Italy and fate played a part because that’s where my cue got broken.
‘I don’t believe in fate, right, but that was fate saying I shouldn’t have been going. I’ve had that cue 30-odd years and it snaps on the one time I thought I shouldn’t have been on the plane. As soon as I got back from Gibraltar, I went into lockdown because we thought we should be.
’ Miraculously, master cue-maker John Parris has fixed Anthony’s cue after it’s heartbreaking snap en route to Spain and he is heading to pick it up for the first time in the coming days.
That will lift his mood which has been darkened by events over the last three months. Not usually a politically-charged observer, Hamilton has been riled by the government’s response to the global pandemic, which has strengthened his resolve to remain in lockdown.
‘It’s pathetic, the most pathetic governing I’ve ever seen, I’ll be honest,’ said the former German Masters champion. ‘The fact we had all the information previously and we didn’t react properly is an indictment on this government and how they don’t give a s**t about the public.
‘None of us are scientists, but we know how a virus spreads. You hoped that what they were doing was going to be right, but you knew in your heart they were making a massive hash of it, trying to save the economy.
‘That’s part of the reason I’m not playing in this tournament because I don’t want to add to that personally, add to that rhetoric of not doing the right thing.
‘I’m not shouting anyone down for playing in tournaments, it’s up to the individual circumstances, I just don’t want to add to it.
‘I try and steer as clear from politics as possible to keep you sane. I don’t see this as politics, because when it’s human lives it’s more than that, it’s your duty.
‘There’s so many vulnerable people that we’re losing, it’s scandalous and it’s more of a human thing than a political thing, for me. Whoever is in power, we rate them on their performance, which is a political thing, but I wish we had someone better so we would have lost less lives. I’m not left or right, we just need someone better.
‘I think it’s scandalous in the West because they’ve gone for money over lives. If it was young people dying they wouldn’t have responded this way, but the old and vulnerable have been sacrificed. I can’t believe the ruthlessness of it all. “Herd immunity” was the fancy word for culling off an older community, they knew who was going to be the herd.’
Hamilton has seen it all in his near-30 year playing career and is happy to speak his mind as an elder statesman of the game.
At 48-years-old he believes the tour is in as good a position as it ever has been, but still feels there are problems that can be ironed out, if players are listened to.
‘It’ll be good to watch something next week on the TV.. I’m often a critic of Barry and this and that, but there’s not a bad word to be said about the procedures they’ve put in place.
‘It’s just day to day issues on tour. Players don’t get treated that well these days, a lot of fines for no reason or very small reasons. I’ve got issues with pulling out of tournaments with a bad back and neck, which is chronic spinal erosion, but it seems that every time I do it’s taken on as a brand new case.
‘I’m blatantly trying to play in all the tournaments, I don’t want to pull out. I know why they bring in rules, because certain players have dropped out last minute taking the piss, big name players, but I think some common sense is missing.
‘It’s a stressed out situation every single time when you have to pull out of a tournament then you have to go to a doctor and get a new certificate every single time, send it off, wait to see if you get fined or not. It’s just a bit tiring,
‘The running of the game can be a little bit too harsh sometimes. But generally, if I was 27, fit as a fiddle and loving life, I wouldn’t believe how good things were, with all the opportunities.
‘There was a time when if you said things in the right way, things would be implemented and your views get across, but that doesn’t happen with Barry at all. He won’t listen to anything from individuals unless it’s something he wants to hear. But he gets the results in the end.’
Hamilton has one ranking title to his name after winning the German Masters in 2017, an emotional victory in Berlin after such a long wait.
Despite a lack of silverware in his cabinet, he is extremely well respected among other players and has come up over lockdown as snooker observers consider various debates with no sport to watch.
Three-time world champion Mark Williams considers Hamilton one of his favourite players to watch in the game, while Alan McManus picked him out as the player he has been most surprised never reached the elite of the sport.
The Sheriff of Pottingham (snooker’s single greatest nickname) is delighted to hear the praise from the people with opinions that matter to him.
‘I think we all know who gets respected between us, without ever hearing it first hand,’ said Hamilton. ‘You’re not going to go up to another pro and tell them how good you think you are, because you’ve got to beat them tomorrow.
‘It is nice, though, because it makes it worthwhile, getting recognised by your peers. I hear people in some sports getting bothered by what the public think, which I don’t understand, it’s like a brain surgeon getting upset about me slagging them off, I don’t know anything about it. So respect from your peers is great.
‘The way people work in sports is a bit weird because they think there’s only one or two winners. If you went to someone who’s broken their leg and said “this consultant is the 47th best in the world” they wouldn’t stop talking about it at dinner parties for years. Talk about the 47th best snooker player in the world and people think you’re a bag of shit.
‘Sports is like that, it’s the way people look at it. Rightfully so in a way, to revere the best ones. But I think anyone you see on TV doing what they do are absolute machines. There are levels above them that are semi-Gods, but everyone is brilliant.’
At 48-years-old Hamilton is still playing good stuff, despite his severely restrictive injury which limits his practice and sees him focus on stretching and fitness as much as potting balls.
More silverware is certainly not out of the question, but whether it comes or not, the veteran refuses to have regrets about a career which he has thoroughly enjoyed and is appreciating more and more as the years go on.
‘I’m not overly proud of my career when it comes to trophies, of course. But you shouldn’t have too many regrets,’ Anthony continued.
‘I lived a bit too much when I was in my prime, I was enjoying life. I don’t think you can enjoy it as much as I did and get the results at the same time.
‘As a cruel joke, as you get a bit older, more boring, more stable, and that’s when you get injured. It’s not gone perfectly for me but I’ve got no regrets because I’ve enjoyed it.
‘I’ve been in the top 10, top 16, 12 Crucible appearances and a few finals here and there. Also, just a lot of hard match snooker that you don’t see on the TV. A lot of my favourite matches have been untelevised in some sports hall round the corner.
‘World Championship losses and wins, things that haven’t been seen but will live with my till my last breath. That’s why I play snooker, for the competition. It’s for the good and bad memories, some of the bad memories are my favourite ones.
‘Some of my favourite memories are losses because the match itself was just amazing, both players at the top of their game and someone just has to come out on the wrong end of it.
‘There’s nowhere to hide, that’s why we love and hate snooker. It’s really medieval. Over the years I used to dislike a lot of snooker players but now I think they’re a dying breed of sportsperson, I think they’re really cool.
‘They work hard for not the most amazing prize money. It’s alright, better than a lot of jobs. But they work hard at a game that really doesn’t give you a lot of enjoyment.
‘It’s a tortuous thing to do and every single time they go to a tournament, all but one player comes away pissed off and you do that for 30 years. There’s no glamour, if you’re in the sport for that, you’re in the wrong sport. That’s why a lot of players don’t last that long, they get to a point and think it’s not enough.
‘The ones that last, like me, [Barry] Pinches, McManus are maybe a bit more crazy and sad than the ones that chucked it in.
’ As with many snooker players, Hamilton has a complicated relationship with the game that he has made his life. It is his chief source of frustration while also being his greatest passion and his job. After thinking about it, he does still have a great love for the game, forged through respect for the sheer difficulty of it.
‘Yeah I do, I do actually, I try and tell myself sometimes I don’t, but I do love the game. There’s nothing more humbling than playing this game, the game always wins, it’s so hard,’ concluded Hamilton.
‘That’s why we revere Ronnie [O’Sullivan] so much, because he makes this game look so easy.
‘If it was curling or something you couldn’t have the same admiration. Of course the best curler in the world is something special but there’s so many variations to this game, it’s unbelievable.’
Respect Anthony! Respect for saying those things, simply, and clearly, be it about the current pandemics and the way it’s (not) been tackled, about the current governance of the sport, the good and less good of it, about his own career, or about his sport that he loves and hates, a sport that tortures him whilst making him ecstatic, frustrates him but keeps him hooked. Snooker is a passion. It’s like a lover … the kind of lover you can’t live with without suffering, but can’t break away from because your love is too strong and they’re part of your soul.
Next time a player loses it in a post-match conference, minutes after being beaten, or maybe even after a win, but mentally and emotionally exhausted after a tortuous – or torturous – game, please remember what Antony says here, remember that they are human.
Thank you Anthony, and thank you Phil Haig too, for this fantastic piece.