An interview with Ronnie ahead of the Championship League Snooker 2020

Ronnie spoke to Hector Nunns ahead of his probable return to action on Friday.

Ronnie O’Sullivan’s return to snooker rests on food rules and Covid-19 protocols

Snooker restarts this week with the 64-player Championship League, but Ronnie O’Sullivan has coronavirus concerns despite player tests and unprecedented measures being in place

By Hector Nunns

Ronnie O’Sullivan has revealed he could still pull out of snooker ’s big return – if barred from bringing his own food.

The Rocket will head for Milton Keynes’s Marshall Arena later this week after accepting a place in the 64-player Championship League tournament.

Unprecedented measures are in place including mandatory throat and nose Covid-19 tests, isolation in the on-site hotel, an empty arena, hand sanitiser and gloves to be worn when not at the table.

But five-time world champion O’Sullivan, 44, has taken his food preparation very seriously during the coronavirus pandemic lockdown.

O’Sullivan has not allowed anyone else to touch or prepare his food for months – and expects to be able to bring his own chickpea curry, chicken, salad and vegetables.

Ronnie O’Sullivan has spent less time at the table this year

Other players are having foil-covered meals left outside their hotel room door.

But O’Sullivan said: “So as long as my desire to stay healthy was respected and I could take my own food, once I heard of the other measures being taken I was happy to play.

“I don’t trust people cooking my own food at the hotel during these times. I have been told that will be okay, but you never know until you arrive there and see what happens.

If I feel the food situation is not right and I am not allowed to bring in my own pre-prepared stuff, I will feel my health is the most important.

“I don’t mind cold food so I’ll bring some chickpea curry along, or some chicken and make some salad and vegetables.

Ronnie's food

“Until there is a vaccine you are going to be anxious and have worries, and not take risks.

“So when I get there, hopefully I feel safe, and if I don’t and I’m not happy, then my health has to come first and I could leave.

“I asked about the food before I agreed to play. I explained that I have had no one touch my food for the last 10 weeks. I haven’t had takeaways, or let anyone else cook for me.

“I wouldn’t trust anyone else doing it right now. I will cook it at home, take it there, there’s a fridge in the room, and it’s only a day and a half.

“That would be a deal-breaker for me, I am funny about it. They said it would be fine, but let’s wait and see on the day.

“I was the first person to stop shaking hands anyway well before the outbreak, and I’ll do that until the end of my career now. I’ll use the elbow when we can, that’s a good one.

“I have been careful about not touching certain things, like door handles, for three or four years.

“I haven’t had a Covid-19 test up to now, so that will happen I think on Thursday. And if I fail, then it’s straight back home and isolation somewhere else, and back running where I can.

“I have been very careful anyway who I have seen over the last two or three months, maybe two people other than who I am living with.

“I have taken social distancing very seriously, I really don’t want to get ill. That message got through to me.”

Ronnie O’Sullivan won last year’s Tour Championship but may not compete at the Champions League tournament this week (Image: GETTY)

O’Sullivan will be hoping to join world No1 and reigning world champion Judd Trump in next week’s last 16 by winning his group on Friday.

But he admits it will be a shot in the dark – having hardly played or practiced since February.

O’Sullivan added: “I have been keeping my spirits up, and to be honest I have enjoyed some aspects of the lockdown. I have been running a lot and I haven’t missed not playing snooker one bit.

“I have done no practice whatsoever. Literally a couple of hours last week, and I’ll maybe do two or three hours before I play on Friday.

Ronnie social distancing
Ronnie O’Sullivan will have to social distance from others at the tournament (Image: EUROSPORT)

“I last had a decent practice game just before lockdown in March, and before that there were a couple of games in the Shootout.

“So my last proper match was mid-February at the Welsh. I played two exhibitions, the Shootout, and apart from that didn’t pick up my cue.

“I think it will be fine having no crowd for a change, there is a whole circus that goes with snooker for me. Maybe this will be better – a bit of peace and quiet!

“I love the fans, but when I say tournaments can be a circus I don’t think people realise sometimes what is asked of me – probably more than any other player.

“And I just don’t want to do that anymore. I know at this event not a lot will be asked of me, which is fine by me.”

Blue colouring has been added by me.

That Ronnie is an anxious person is nothing new, and he can become quite obsessive about things. He’s obviously very worried about the whole situation. I still believe that there is a good chance for him to play on Friday.

The last bit is revealing as well and is the reason why I think that a World Championship played with no crowd, and minimal media presence, could help him. I have seen it close-up. It is a circus. In a previous interview, Ronnie had revealed that on the evening before the 2019 Masters Final, he had been detained by the media for three hours, and this had been part of his decision not to play in the 2020 Masters. Sportspersons may have a duty to promote their sport, but, first of all, they also are there to try to win, and that should be the priority.


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