An excellent interview with Mark King

Mark King is self-isolating, after testing positive with covid-19 earlier this week.

He was interviewed by Phil Haigh

Mark King says social media abuse in snooker is hard to bear: ‘You just want to rip them apart’

2018 World Grand Prix - Day 3
Mark King wants to see an end to social media abuse for sports stars (Picture: Visual China Group via Getty Images)

Social media abuse has become commonplace for stars of all sports and snooker is not immune, with Mark King receiving the vilest of messages imaginable, and he says enough is enough.

Public figures have long been targeted by online trolls and sportsmen and women have been victims since social media first allowed strangers to contact them directly.

Numerous snooker players have publicised the grim comments that are directed at them and some have chosen to step away from social media as a result, which is a great shame for genuine fans.

King has received messages ranging from the mildly irritating to the eye-wateringly hideous and it is a completely unnecessary stress that no one should have to deal with.

‘I was talking to Mark Allen at the Championship League and he’s come off all social media, he said he just can’t bear it,’ King told ‘There are so many idiots on there and all they want to do is slag you off.

‘People on there will say I played crap, and I agree with them, I’ll have a bad day at the office, but I’ve put the practice in and just had a bad day, that’s it.

‘But you get people who’ve gambled on the game and say, “I hope your kids die and my wife dies of cancer” and you just want to rip them apart.

‘If you want to say things like that, get in a room with me and I’ll smash you all over the place, absolute scumbags. If you’re going to have a bet, take the consequences.

‘I’d have more respect for them if someone said it to my face, I’d probably shake their hand and say, “I agree with you, I played shit.”’

European Masters 2018 - Day 6
King missed this week’s German Masters due to a positive coronavirus test (Picture: Getty Images)

The anonymous nature of many Twitter accounts makes it all the easier for trolls to do their work, and while the most horrific messages have an obvious impact, it can be seemingly less offensive remarks that can also cut deep.

King was brought up in a recent discussion over snooker journeymen, something he is clearly not as a former Northern Ireland Open champion and top 16 player, but the comment rankled with the 46-year-old.

‘All these people are just trolls, they’ve got a picture of a dog so you don’t know who they are and you just think, “go and annoy someone else.” If you ain’t got something good to say or worth talking about then don’t bother saying it,’ King continued.

‘A guy recently said I was a journeyman, I thought, “I ain’t no one really, but in my sport I feel like I’ve accomplished more than a journeyman.”

‘A journeyman turns up gets beat, goes home, turns up gets beat, just makes the numbers up. Being a ranking event winner puts that out the water, I’ve been in the top 16 a few times. It’s just disrespectful. That’s why I said I don’t agree, it’s just rude.’

The fiendishly difficult game is hard enough without the added pressure and abuse read on your phone after a defeat.

Matches are not just matches, but how players earn money and pay the bills and they are there to win for their family and their career, which makes the attacks all the more tough to take.

‘All the players try. You practice hours and days on end, what’s the point in not trying?’ King said.

‘Sometimes you’re having a bad day but being a professional sportsman kicks in. You can roll over and give up or you can try. 99 out of 100 will try.

‘On the odd occasion you’ve got nothing in the tank, we’ve all been there when the luck’s against you, you’re playing bad anyway and they fluke a ball and you just think, “Take me now! Put me in the car and drive me home.”

‘The game is just so frustrating. We’re all trying. Especially when you know why you’ve missed. It’s just so annoying, but there we go.’

King is looking forward to getting back on the table after missing the German Masters qualifiers this week due to a positive coronavirus test.

‘Berlin is one of the best ones we’ve got,’ he said. ‘It’s such a shame, I’ve missed the last couple of years and to miss out again through no fault of my own, is disappointing but hey ho.

‘I was playing really poorly so I really put some hours in the last few weeks and was really looking forward to playing some better snooker.

‘This has happened so I’ve had to put me cue down for a week which is really frustrating, but it is what it is.’

With his wife testing negative for the virus, King has been confined to his bedroom in a bid to not pass it on to his family and admits that he has been ‘bouncing off the walls’ in isolation.

He will return next week at a special event for the veteran, the Northern Ireland Open, which was his first ranking event success four years ago in Belfast.

It was an emotional victory for him when he downed Barry Hawkins 9-8 in an epic final, 25 years after he turned pro, but he does not see it as a one-off, wanting to add more silverware to his collection.

‘Four years ago this year, it’s gone really quick, really quick,’ King said of his Northern Ireland triumph. ‘It’ll be nice to get another win under my belt or a decent run in something because my results haven’t been that good.

‘I’ve got pictures in my bedroom, the trophy is in the house, I see it every day and they are fantastic memories.

‘The main thing was having my whole family there, apart from winning, it was having everyone there and hopefully another one is just around the corner.’

The Northern Ireland Open will be held in Milton Keynes his year, as has every other event so far this season as the pandemic rolls on, but despite the monotony of the trips to the Marshall Arena, King is raring to get going and regain his form after a slow start to the campaign.

‘No matter where you are, you want to get higher. My world ranking at the minute ain’t where I wanna be, so, it’s a case of knuckling down, getting a few wins under my belt and my confidence back up,’ said the world number 43.

‘If you’re not winning it’s hard to get any confidence going. Winning brings pressure for other players to beat you.

‘If you play someone who ain’t winning much you don’t feel the nerves like when you’re playing a [Ronnie] O’Sullivan or a [Judd] Trump. You can get nervous playing them sort of players, but players that aren’t winning a lot, there’s less pressure.

‘I feel like I’ve still got a lot to give the game. I’ve got a chance of doing some big things again when I knuckle down.’

King is back in action on Tuesday 17 November against Zak Surety in the Northern Ireland Open first round.

This really is an excellent interview – thank you Phil Haigh – and one that tackles what has become an Internet plague: extreme abuse by anonymous cowards. In sports, people losing bets are a big part of that. Fans should understand and accept that sportspersons are not robots that can be turned on to perform and win. Form is not a tap that can be opened/closed at will. They have good and bad days, just like everyone of us. When they go through a bad spell, doubts and anxiety creep in and often it will further undermine their performances. It may take time, and sometimes external help, to get back to where they want to be.

2 thoughts on “An excellent interview with Mark King

  1. Of course there are, as in every other of society, abusive comments on social media in Snooker. The best example being the regular comments on John Higgins’ matches, there will almost always some derogatory comments about John cheating in matches. So it does not even stop at insulting players for bad performances, as Mark experienced, but even mounts to deliberately ignoring facts or even spreading false claims about players. I feel a lot sympathy for players who decide not to engage in social media, even though as a fan, it is alwas great to have ways of getting to know the players.

  2. Yes indeed, trolls are the ugly side of the internet.

    But I would say that the term ‘journeyman’ should not be as derogatory as Mark King makes out, at least in the strict historical definition of the word. It just means somebody who earns a living playing snooker. It does not mean somebody who always loses – they can’t make any money at all under currect policy. So in that sense ‘journeyman’ is a player who is stable on the tour but who isn’t likely to become a ‘top player’, e.g. top-16 or a tournament winner. Mark King has acheived both of those, so the question is whether past achievements still count. However, the term is usually used in a negative sense, but then that’s true of practically any term used to describe players outside the elite. For what it’s worth, I’m (mildly) in favour of ‘titles’ for players, as in martial arts, although the benefits are more tangible in amateur snooker.

Comments are closed.