While we wait for the draw… Eurosport asked Ronnie about some Crucible memories

Ronnie O’Sullivan recalls his funniest Crucible memory – ‘Knowlsey was fuming’

John Parrott, Ronnie, Tony Knowles

Ronnie O’Sullivan is set to participate in his 27th straight World Championship as he chases a sixth title that would see him equal the Crucible hauls of Steve Davis and Ray Reardon.

It will be a serious business for O’Sullivan and the rest of snooker’s leading players with the game’s most coveted trophy and a £500,000 first prize on the line in Sheffield when the delayed tournament begins on Friday 31 July.

O’Sullivan has plenty of memories since first appearing at the Crucible as a teenager in 1993, but can also still enjoy the lighter side of the sport as a fan.

The five-times world champion – who is seeded sixth at this year’s event – recalls watching a match between then defending world champion John Parrott and Tony Knowles in 1992 when Parrott benefited from a blunder by legendary referee Len Ganley on his way to a 13-4 win in the last 16.

“One of my favourite moments was a match between John Parrott and Tony Knowles. I remember watching it on the box,” said O’Sullivan.

“John Parrott was in a snooker on the brown. He missed it, and the referee said: ‘foul four, and a miss’. Tony Knowles has said to the referee: ‘Yeah, put the white back’.

“Parrott suddenly gets down to pot the brown, blue, pink and black to clear up. Knowlsey is going mad. He is saying to the referee: ‘He couldn’t see that brown.’

“Poor Knowlsey. He was getting out of his chair, and was fuming. But it was funny to watch.”

It might be perceived as a bit mean to find that incident funny, but, myself, I have witnessed Tony Kowles getting quite worked up about something related to snooker and he got so passionate about it, despite the fact that nobody was disagreeing with him in that particular case, that indeed, it became actually funny.

Regarding the above incident, what puzzles me most is the fact that John Parrott must have known that the white had not been correctly replaced, and said nothing. Unless, of course, Tony’s perception of the situation was wrong from the start. That’s possible because, a player sat in his chair at the Crucible, certainly does not have the best view on the table.

Ronnie O’Sullivan on ‘boxing’ snooker bout with Stephen Hendry – ‘It was a big mistake’

Ronnie O, Ronnie Wood and Prince Naseem Hamed

Ronnie O’Sullivan admits he will always regret engaging with boxing trash talk before his World Championship semi-final with Stephen Hendry in 2002.

Ahead of his Crucible clash with seven-times world champion Hendry 18 years ago, O’Sullivan infamously said he would like to send his opponent “back to his sad little life in Scotland”.

It is a moment the Essex player always regrets – he later apologised to Hendry – but believes his close friendship with former world featherweight champion boxer Prince Naseem Hamed did not help before getting inside the ropes with his fellow 36-times ranking winner.

“I wonder – rightly – whether he’s been listening to a certain Sheffield boxer with a penchant for shooting his mouth off,” said Hendry in his autobiography Me and the Table.

“In the last couple of seasons, my pal Prince Naseem has visibly switched his loyalties from me to Ronnie, and the latter has been spotted hanging out with Naz’s entourage. So it’s not surprising there’s a bit of fighting talk.”

The pre-match barbs backfired on O’Sullivan as he lost 17-13 to a fired up Hendry in the semi-finals, who also admitted it is the only grudge match he ever played at the iconic Sheffield venue.

Hendry rolled in breaks of 125, 124, 122, 113, 100, 81, 73, 65, 63, 59, 58, 55 and 53 as he won five of the last six frames to progress to the final, punching the air in completing victory.

“That was terrible. I blamed myself for that,” said O’Sullivan.

“It should never have happened. But I’m also blaming Naz for getting me so revved up. He said to me the day before the match: ‘You should be more like this, or more like that.’

“It was okay for Naz because he was a boxer, but I’m a snooker player. You have to respect your opponent. In boxing, they like that sort of trash talk to sell tickets. It wasn’t really me. I was easily led. When I said it, and when it came out, I was gutted.

It is something I will always regret for the rest of my life. Stephen was my hero, and still is. I never a meant a word of it. I’ve told Stephen that, and apologised to him. I have a lot of time for Stephen, and he accepted my apology. We’re good mates now – we have a solid friendship.

“It was a big mistake on my part.”

It was indeed a very bad idea and it backfired big time. It also led to quite heated – and colourful – discussions between fans of both players on forums and message boards, notably on BBC 606, long after the players themselves had patched things up!


David Hendon’s latest podcast: previewing the 2020 World Championship

Two days ago David Hendon published this podcast on his soundcloud channel:

davehendon · Snooker Scene Podcast episode 114 – World Championship Predictions

David Hendon and Michael McMullan first reflect on Stephen Maguire’s Tour Championship win, as well as on his career so far.

They then turn their attention to the 2020 World Championship seeds and discuss who they fancy to reach the one table setup. Looking at each quarter, they each give their opinion on the chances each player has to get the the semi finals, why, and, in case they pick a different player to go through, they push the debate further until they find an agreement.

Judd Trump (1) / Qualifier
Yan Bingtao (16) / Qualifier
Stephen Maguire (9) / Qualifier
Kyren Wilson (8) / Qualifier


John Higgins (5) / Qualifier
David Gilbert (12) / Qualifier
Jack Lisowski (13) / Qualifier
Mark Allen (4) / Qualifier


Mark Williams (3) / Qualifier
Stuart Bingham (14) / Qualifier
Ding Junhui (11) / Qualifier
Ronnie O’Sullivan (6) / Qualifier


Mark Selby (7) / Qualifier
Shaun Murphy (10) / Qualifier
Barry Hawkins (15) / Qualifier
Neil Robertson (2) / Qualifier

In the first quarter, they both picked Judd Trump. Looking at his season as a whole, it’s a logical choice. However, he didn’t play well neither in the Championship League, nor in the Tour Championship. In the latter, his postmatch interview very much reminded me of the Judd Trump of the past. At the Crucible, a huge weight of expectations and the attention of the media will be on him. There are reasons why a first time champion has never defended successfully. Actually, I wouldn’t be surprised if he lost on the first day. If we look back at the last decade, we had three first time World Champions: 2010, Neil Robertson, 2014, Mark Selby and 2015, Stuart Bingham. As defending Champions, Neil and Stuart lost in the first round, Mark Selby, who went on to win three times in four consecutive years, lost in the last 16. That’s how hard it is. My pick in that quarter would be Stephen Maguire. I don’t think pressure will be an issue in the early rounds, and he certainly is the man on form.

In the second quarter, they picked Mark Allen, and I agree. Michael McMullan makes him the favourite to win the tournament. I’m not sure about that. Mark often seems to run out of steam in the latter stages. The reason for that, in my opinion at least, is that Mark isn’t physically fit enough. The World Championship is am endurance test, mentally and physically. I’m certain that Mark has the game to be a World Champion but I’m not sure that he currently has the required stamina.

In the third quarter, Michael went for Stuart Bingham and David for Ronnie. Eventually they settled on Ronnie, but are not expecting him to go much further. Stuart and Ding are in that quarter and they had a similar season in that both won a “major” – Ding won the UK Championship, Stuart won the Masters – but didn’t do much else. Ronnie had a poor season as compared to the previous ones, but he still won the Shanghai Masters and made the final of the Northern Ireland Open. He won 77.78% of his matches so far this season. As a comparison Ding has won 67.44%, Stuart has won 57.58%, Selby despite winning two ranking tournaments is at 66.28%, Mark Allen at 69.49%, Neil Robertson at 72.86%, Shaun Murphy at 75.76% … Judd Trump, winning six ranking events, is at 82.61%. So clearly Ronnie isn’t playing badly, but he hasn’t played enough which has put him under huge pressure and, at times, it showed. To me, IF Ronnie was to reach the one table setup, he would a good chance to win the event. But he will be under pressure in the early rounds. Also, I’m not sure that he will cope with the “Bubble” conditions. He struggled in Milton Keynes and it was a much shorter event. During one of his instagram chats with Hendry, he admitted being several time on the phone with Steve Peters whilst there.

The last quarter, with Mark Selby, Neil Robertson and Shaun Murphy is loaded. They settled on Mark Selby, and Mark is also David’s pick to win the event. I’m not sure I understand why, other than the fact that, mentally, Mark is probably the best equipped for the very long formats. His form however has not really been there recently.

WST ans WPBSA made every effort to get everyone playing at the World Qualifiers

Phil Haigh has spoken to Jason Ferguson about the withdrawals from the World Championship:

The World Snooker Championship is losing entrants but not through lack of effort to solve problems

Zhao Xintong
Zhao Xintong has reportedly chosen not to play in the World Championship this year (Picture: VCG via Getty Images)

The 2020 World Snooker Championship is going to be a unique event and one that some players are opting out of competing in, but that is not through a lack of effort from tournament organisers.

The rescheduled main event of the snooker season will run from 31 July – 16 August at the Crucible in Sheffield, with the qualifiers taking place from 21-28 July at the English Institute of Sport in the same city.

While there are a plethora of concerns about a World Championship with no fans in attendance and keeping players, staff and officials safe amid the coronavirus pandemic, there has been a serious worry that international players will not be able to compete.

It appears that a number of Chinese players will not be playing, with the South China Morning Post reporting that Zhou Yuelong, Xiao Guodong, and Zhao Xintong are three of ‘at least 10’ players from China who will not be travelling to South Yorkshire.

World number 10 Ding Junhui is expected to return from China for the event, while the likes of Yan Bingtao and Liang Wenbo are already in the UK so will compete.

Safety concerns regarding COVID-19 have put off some players returning to the UK, while the 14-day travel quarantine for arrivals from abroad is also a problem. Flights are much less regular than in normal times, and more expensive, but they are running.

WPBSA chairman Jason Ferguson insists that no player is unable to play in the event, some are opting to out of their own personal choice, and every effort has been made to allow them to play in Sheffield.

‘We’ve been in contact with every single player,’ Ferguson told Metro.co.uk. ‘We’ve put in place travel and financial support for all players to help them get back to the UK, support for visas and everything.

‘Some of them are thinking, “shall we or shan’t we” but our job is to present the opportunity for every single player to get here. On that we’ve not failed.

‘We’re doing more than ever before on a very individual basis, chasing them to see if they’ve got paperwork sorted etc. We are on top of it.

‘It’s down to personal choice, and we respect that choice, if it’s down to family reasons or safety reasons, that’s down to the players.

‘We don’t want to lose any, we want a full contingent, but if we get a few gaps we will fill up through the normal channels.

’ While it is more than understandable that some players do not want to risk travel to the UK at this time, the safest environment possible is being created for those that do.

Any players arriving in the country before 7 July can quarantine in a residential address, while those arriving after that will quarantine in a designated hotel. They will be tested for COVID-19 before entering and then stay there up to and including qualifying.

There will be practice tables available and secure transfers to and from the venue when they play.

Ding Junhui
UK champion Ding Junhui is expected to be in Sheffield, where he owns a house (Picture: Getty Images)

Ferguson also made it clear that the entry deadline for the World Championship is not until 6 July, so any players that are considering not playing, or have already decided not to, can still change their minds and help would be in place to get them to the UK to play.

Little is ideal about this year’s World Championship, and undoubtedly playing in it is much trickier for international players than those based in the UK.

Everything possible is being done to accommodate the overseas players, though, with WST and the WPBSA attempting to make the very best of a bad situation.

Tournament organisers in China are confident that events will be back up and running there in the near future, with the possibility of a string of Chinese events being held early next season.

While little could make up for a player missing out on the World Championship, China and its players, along with players from Thailand, mainland Europe and elsewhere, are in no means being forgotten about by snooker’s decision-makers.

The “bold italic” has been added by me.

That’s a very impressive effort by the governing body. They are clearly doing everything in their power to get everyone involved. Being from mainland Europe myself, I was afraid that non UK players would be left on their own devices in this unprecedented situation and would be unable to attend for any number of reasons. I want the World Tour to really be a “World” tour and not a somehow “extended” UK tour and I’m very happy to read the above.

About the bits I highlighted …

Like many, I assumed that if players were withdrawing, the first round would simply be made shorter. Apparently, this is not the case: “if we get a few gaps we will fill up through the normal channels”. If I understand this correctly, quite a number of Q-school top-ups might get an invitation…

Jason Ferguson is clearly trying his best to get all players on board. His “public” offer to concretely help those who would wish to change their mind is as unprecedented as the situation we are in: “so any players that are considering not playing, or have already decided not to, can still change their minds and help would be in place to get them to the UK to play”

And it’s reassuring to read that tournament organisers in China aren’t throwing the towel at snooker, but on the contrary are working to have it up and running there asap. I sincerely hope that, this time, those events will be run with all 128 players at the venues. It would be the sensible thing to do, avoiding difficult rounds trips from and back to China and it would definitely be fairer on Chinese players, who, for years now, have been forced to travel to UK to qualify for their home events.

This is the article by the China Morning Post

Snooker World Championship: Ding Junhui heads 10-man Chinese force planning Sheffield raid

Again I have put some interesting parts in “bold italic

The article mentions the problems Ding had to go back home. He wasn’t the worst affected though. Some players had to go through a 14 days quarantine when arriving in China, before being allowed to get on a domestic flight towards their final destination – their home – only to be quarantined again for another 14 days upon arrival in their home region. It’s easy to forget that China is vast as a continent and the virus didn’t affect all areas at the same time, nor the same way. It’s understandable that those who went through that aren’t too keen to repeat the experience.

Some people are NOW calling for the World Championship to be cancelled. That would be ridiculous after so much effort, and considerable resources, have been devoted to get it up and running. I was in favour of not playing the event, and extending the season up to May 2021, resuming it gradually with more modest events. No relegations, no Q-School. I still think it would have been the best option. But that was only an option at the start of the lockdown, before all those efforts had been made, it’s no more an option now.

After the CLS and Tour Championship, I’m reasonably confident about the World Championship, qualifiers included. I’m still very concerned about the Q-School …


The Tour Championship 2020 starts tomorrow

The Tour Championship 2020 starts tomorrow in Milton Keynes, without a crowd, under social distancing rules, and with a shortened format. The prize money though has not been shortened, and, although the event will have no bearing on who will have to qualify for the World Championship, it can and probably will have an impact on the top 16 seedings.

Here is Matt Huart explaining what could possibly happen:

The Crucible Seeding Race 2020 – Tour Championship Preview

18th June 2020

Ranking event snooker will return to our screens this Saturday with the start of the Coral Tour Championship – an event which will also see the final seeding list set for the Betfred World Championship later this summer.

In the context of wider events this year’s snooker calendar of course takes an unusual shape, with the cancellation of the China Open and the postponement of the season’s final two tournaments until the summer. Below we outline the implications for the current seeding list and the importance of the next week of action at the Marshall Arena in Milton Keynes.

Top 16 Qualified

The final seeding list for the 2020 World Championship will be finalised following the conclusion of next week’s Tour Championship. At this cut-off points from the Tour Championship will be added to the current world rankings, with no points to be removed as this event was not staged in 2018 and points from that year’s China Open have already been deducted.

With each of the eight players competing in the tournament already within the provisional (and actual) top 16 therefore, we already know that the top 16 automatic qualifiers for the tournament cannot change (subject to all players entering the tournament).

The Crucible Draw

With a first prize of £150,000 to be won in Milton Keynes however, there is still much that can change in respect of the order of the top 16 players.

This is crucial because as always, the 16 seeded players at the World Championship are placed in the draw in a very specific manner, for example the top seed is always scheduled to meet the 16th seed in the second round, the second seed is always poised to meet the 15th seed and so on.

As it stands, the last 16 draw (if all first round matches in Sheffield were won by the seeded player) would currently look as follows:

Trump (1) v Yan (16)
Murphy (9) v Wilson (8)

Allen (5) v Lisowski (12)
Bingham (13) v Higgins (4)

Williams (3) v Maguire (14)
Gilbert (11) v O’Sullivan (6)

Selby (7) v Ding (10)
Hawkins (15) v Robertson (2)

Of these players, Judd Trump is of course cemented as top seed, not only as the sport’s runaway world number one on the official world ranking list, but also as defending champion. Neil Robertson too is already assured of second place, with closest challenger Mark Williams not having qualified for the Tour Championship.

However, every other position can still change next week, meaning that the final placement of the remaining 14 seeded players is likely to change depending on results over the coming days…

Themes to Follow

So what do we know heading into the season’s penultimate event?

Mark Williams looks well-placed to head to the Crucible as third seed this year despite not being involved next week, with only John Higgins able to displace him by going all the way to the title in Milton Keynes. With a significant gap between the £150,000 first prize and £60,000 cheque for finishing as runner-up, nothing less than victory would be sufficient for the Scot.

As for Higgins himself, if he were to lose his opening match then Mark Allen would overtake him with a run to the final, while Mark Selby would need to win the title to potentially vault three places up the list from seventh position.

Similarly, Allen can only be caught by Selby, with the three-time world champion actually being able to finish level with Allen if he were to reach the final with the Northern Irishman losing to Shaun Murphy first up. If this were to happen, Selby would take the position on countback. If Allen is able to win at least one match however, nothing less than the title would be sufficient for Selby.

One big name who won’t be in action next week is of course Ronnie O’Sullivan, who currently sits in sixth position heading to Sheffield. As it stands both Selby and Murphy can overtake the five-time world champion, but only one with the pair situated in the same half of the draw in Milton Keynes. A run to the final would be enough for Selby, while Murphy must win the title to rise to sixth position ahead of both players.

More immediately, Murphy can leapfrog the absent Kyren Wilson with a single win over Mark Allen next Tuesday and himself can only be overtaken by Stephen Maguire if the Scot were able to claim the title at the Marshall Arena. Entering the tournament in 14th place behind four players not competing next week, a single victory would be enough to see him rise two places above Stuart Bingham and Jack Lisowski, but beyond that he would need to go all the way to rise further.

Finally, the player currently ranked 16th and set to face Judd Trump at the last 16 stage in Sheffield Yan Bingtao can also move out of that position in the draw with a run in Milton Keynes. Victory against Mark Selby would potentially enough to see him rise two positions (subject to Maguire’s result), while the title would see him surge into the world’s top 10 for the first time.

So, specifically for Ronnie, the lowest he could be seeded is 7th, which would keep him in the same half of the draw and away from Judd Trump until the final. As it stands, he would then be on course for a second-round match against Ding. Ding’s participation however is no certainty. He already withdrew from the Tour Championship, citing concerns for his family health and safety, and Marco Fu officially withdrew from the WC qualifiers for the same reasons.

WST also interviewed Yan Bingtao, the youngest, lowest ranked, and only Chinese player in the draw.

Yan Bingtao has enjoyed a fine season, securing his place in the top eight of the one-year list and qualifying for next week’s elite Coral Tour Championship in Milton Keynes.

The 20-year-old Chinese star will face three-time World Champion Mark Selby in the first round on Monday. On his way to qualifying, he sealed a maiden ranking title in the season opening Riga Masters last July, beating Mark Joyce 5-2 in the final. Yan was also runner-up in the most recent Coral Series event, the Players Championship in Southport, losing out 10-4 to Judd Trump in the final.

We’ve caught up with Yan, who elected to remain in Sheffield during the coronavirus pandemic, to find out how he has been dealing with lockdown and to look ahead to his clash with Selby…

Yan, how have you been coping with lockdown and what have you been doing to keep yourself occupied?

“I haven’t done a lot during lockdown. I’ve been playing quite a lot computer games, watching a few films and sometimes watching videos of my own snooker matches!”

How pleased are you to have decided to stay in Sheffield, especially given the difficulties Ding has had returning from China, which have caused him to withdraw from this event?

“I feel quite lucky, if I went to China then I would not be able to play at the Tour Championship and possibly not even the World Championship. These are most important events, so I feel I made right decision not going back to China.”

How much did you learn from the experience of reaching the final at the Players Championship and facing Judd Trump?

“The final against Judd meant a lot for me. It was such a big event and I got to face the best player at the moment. I got to see the gap between myself and Judd. It was a good experience, because I’ve never played a match of that importance against someone like Judd. It is important to get used to being in finals, I am always learning from the best and hopefully I can improve myself in the near future.”

You didn’t play in the recent Championship League, which Mark Selby did, does that give him an advantage in your upcoming match?

“Mark is like Ronnie O’Sullivan, Judd Trump and John Higgins, these kind of players are always very difficult to beat in any match.  I’ve played against Mark before and he always controls the pace. His safety and attacking play are all really good and he has a good mindset. Having played in the Championship League, he will feel more used to the venue than me. It will be a difficult match, but I will just try to enjoy it. I just feel lucky to have a snooker event on during the pandemic. I’m not thinking win or lose, I just want to learn and improve.”

I sincerely hope that Yan can do well in the Tour Championship. The sport needs young players coming through, and, on results – which, at the end of the day, are the only things that matter, certainly at the early stages of a sporting career – he IS the best prospect snooker currently has. China is important for the survival of snooker – they have invested a lot in the sport – and, if Ding goes missing, they need another hero. Yan could be that hero. Granted, he doesn’t come across as the most flamboyant personality, but he’s grounded and mature beyond his years. BTW, anyone who knew Ding some 10-15 years ago, will remember how shy he was back then.

Stephen and Ronnie about Willie Thorne, the CLS 2020, the World Championship under social distancing and more …

Stephen Hendry and Ronnie had another instagram chat yesterday evening, and it was again enjoyable although the first thing they talked about was, quite naturally, Willie Thorne’s passing away. Neither of them had played Willie at his best, but both knew him fairly well, and are saddened at his untimely death. Stephen of course works as a commentator and pundit for the BBC just like Willie did. Ronnie has done quite a number of exhibitions with the Snooker Legends, with Willie as a host, compère and commentator.

I met Willie quite often over the last five years, and he was always very friendly and quite funny. This is my personal tribute to Willie on my WWS blog.

The next subject they discussed was the CLS, won by Luca Brecel last week. They both enjoyed the final and were full of praise for both Luca and Ben. Ronnie enjoyed playing in the event, but struggled with being locked-up. Both Stephen and Ronnie enjoyed the format, but would have preferred to have it with only 32 players. Ronnie was again rather harsh on some lower ranked players, who, in his opinion, are not at the level they should be as professionals. They can pot, he said, and they can make 147s, but there is a whole aspect of the professional game that they don’t master. He’s right about that; anyone who watches both professional and amateur events will notice how differently the players approach their matches. Young players are often excellent potters, but have no answer when older, hard match players tie them in all kind of knots. The situation is even worse nowadays than it was when Ronnie was a rookie himself, as the amateur game has gone backwards, in the UK certainly, and young players really aren’t ready when they turn pro. So, Ronnie is right in his assessment, but at the same time, he’s harsh on those young pros, because it’s not their fault that they are less ready when turning pro than Ronnie’s generation was.

They then discussed the prospect of the World Championship being played in similar conditions and Ronnie reckoned that he would probably struggle. He seems determined to try is best but is not sure that he can handle those lockdown conditions for 17 days. Hendry, who used to keep himself to himself when competing, admitted that even he would probably struggle as well. Ronnie explained that he was tested twice. The first test went ok, but the second one left him with a minor injury, resulting in a very runny nose for almost two days, which was very uncomfortable.

Ronnie then answered fans’ questions.

Here is the chat:

An interview with Hammad Miah and a post by Alfie Burden

I usually stay away from politics in this blog but today I feel that I must make an exception.

Shamoon Hafez from BBC has interviewed Hamad Miah. Here is this interview:

George Floyd death: Hammad Miah on being called a ‘shoebomber’

By Shamoon Hafez
Hammad MiahHammad Miah grew up in Hertford and his family hail from Bangladesh

Warning: this piece contains offensive language

“A guy called me a shoebomber once. That was new to me and I was laughing about it because I didn’t know what he was going on about. It was only afterwards, when reading up on it, did it become an insult.” 

As Hammad Miah prepares to compete in the Championship League on Sunday, he speaks to BBC Sport about his own experience of racism following the death of George Floyd in the USA. 

Floyd, an unarmed black man who screamed “I can’t breathe” while his neck was pinned under an officer’s knee, has become a symbol for change with the #BlackLivesMatter movement that has sparked huge anti-racism protests across the country.

This week, sports stars including Serena Williams, Paul Pogba and Lewis Hamilton have added their voices. And there was a display of protest from snooker world number 75 Alfie Burden, who took a knee before his match against Ryan Day at the Championship League on Wednesday.

The concerns raised are all too familiar for Miah, who takes the 64th and final spot at the event in Milton Keynes, host to snooker’s first tournament since the season was halted because of the coronavirus pandemic.

“I did have problems growing up; I faced a lot of racism,” Miah said. “But that has shaped me into the person I am today. 

“It is because of Islam that I have calmed down a little bit. That experience of being called a Paki or taking the piss out of me because I am Muslim was really tough.”

Judd TrumpMiah faced current world number one and world champion Judd Trump in the first round of the 2015 UK Championship

In a open and honest interview, Miah talks about:

  • Sympathising with those rioting in the USA to make their feelings known
  • How he would “100% be in a gang” if he still lived in London
  • Bare-knuckle fighting with a fellow snooker player
  • Being harassed by police when growing up

‘When I was growing up, the only way out was fighting’

Americans have defied curfews in cities and the threat of military action from President Donald Trump to take to the streets in their tens of thousands, with violence spreading in some parts.

“When I was growing up, the only way out was fighting,” Miah said. “Slowly people started to realise that what they [racists] were saying was wrong.

“The reason why people keep getting away with it is because they don’t get punished. Islam is not about violence – I understand that now as I have matured as an adult – but that was what we grew up with.

“Some people have no idea what we go through and that is why we can relate to this #BlackLivesMatter movement taking place at the moment. We get it because we feel discriminated against all the time.”

‘I feel I could have become a boxer’

Miah, whose family are from Bangladesh, was born in London and later moved to Hertford. It was his dad who first took him to a snooker club, spotting the talent after his son made a century break at 13 and won amateur tournaments at 16.

Now 26, he is one of only two British Asian players on the 128-man tour, the other being Welshman Kishan Hirani.

Looking back on those early days, going to the snooker club with his dad, Miah says he used to “enjoy it”. But while the sport brought him “contentment and peace, taking my mind off a lot of things”, he pin-points his early experiences as a reason why he has failed to fulfil his potential.

“What happened in my childhood plays a big part in my snooker and is probably the reason I get so angry when playing,” said Miah, who is ranked 96 in the world. “It is my character and I feel I could have become a boxer. 

“It is not good for my well-being because it plays a part in the house and those around me. If I was still living in London, I would have 100% been in a gang. 

“The boys that racially abused me growing up, I had a rage and anger towards them. I did not see them for a couple of years and then I got a bit bigger so if I bumped into them I was going to slap them hard.”

Hammad MiahMiah is ranked number 96 in the world

‘I was offered a bareknuckle fight for £20’

Miah explains how he once had a run-in with a fellow player at a tournament in a holiday park in Wales.

“A couple of other players were around too and he started acting up and offered me a bareknuckle fight for £20 – I took his money off him,” he said.

Miah also recalls suffering harassment from the police.

“Growing up, I remember the police would give me and my black friend more trouble than the rest of the group,” he said.

“Once I got pulled over in my car by two separate police officers in the space of five minutes. They asked what I was doing here in Hertford, I told them I live here and asked whether they pulled me over because I was Asian.

“People say it is worse in America but it is just as bad here. If our coppers carried guns, there would be so many deaths and I am thankful they don’t.”

So how do you solve the issue of racism?

“People that are silent, the people that are trying to justify other crimes or responding with #WhiteLivesMatter, they are the problem,” Miah said. “There is always someone out there trying to justify something inhumane.

“At school, we learn all sorts of stuff and no-one is born racist. If they taught us properly about race and religion, things could change.

“These protests will make a slight change but nothing major; the change starts from the beginning.

“Teach everyone how to love each other, how to care for each other no matter the colour of the skin. We all bleed the same.”

I have known Hammad for years, well before he turned pro. The man I know is kind and respectful to everyone around. He’s religious, yes, but nothing like the kind of person the clichés and prejudices describe muslims. I’m a woman, yet never felt like he treated me any differently for it. The same goes for Rory McLeod. A lot has been made about Rory not shaking hands with women. Rory has always been very polite, respectful and friendly with me. I have seen him around his children, boy and girl, they are the apple of his eyes, and they are ongoing happy, much loved kids.

Hammad is right. We are all the same, no matter our skin colour, our gender, our background or our faith. Fundamentally, we all want the same things: a peaceful life, being surrounded by people we love and who love us, providing for our families, and spending good time with those dear to us. It’s that simple really. And eventually, we all die, and take nothing with us, no money, no power, no fame.

I also feel the need to share this Facebook post by Alfie Burden:

See people talking some utter garbage on here currently, small minds and buried racism issues….
People putting statuses up almost justifying the murder of George Floyd because he had a rap sheet …. so that’s ok is it to publicly slaughter somebody is it because he’s got a criminal record, get a fucking grip….

People having a pop at people for taking the knee etc , I’d take the knee all day long to protest against racism ,to repeat it’s absolutely no place in our society, let’s remember the George Floyd situation shouldn’t be turned into how good or bad a person he was…. it’s about what the motive was to publicly kill a defenceless man who was handcuffed…
All rioting in London has no place in our society, we are not America, we don’t have as big a problem in regards our diabolical policing as they do in my opinion, the police in our country do a fantastic job and don’t deserved to be attacked it’s disgusting and anybody doing this needs to be locked up…. if you want to protest, protest peacefully….
Finally I took a knee in the snooker tournament against racism , the George Floyd public murder brought this to the forefront let’s not get it twisted and justify what the policeman done.
All lives matter clearly, hopefully society can start to all respect each other whatever their skin colour or religion is, after all we are all human beings.

I felt it necessary to post this after reading some real hate and garbage on here and also receiving some abuse for taking a knee on live tv against racism, although I must say in the main I’ve had positive feedback…

Take care of each other.

The end.

Alf X

Alfie also is right. Violence isn’t the answer. It only triggers more violence, more pain, more hate.

Yes, I’m from the flower power generation, I turned 15 in 1969. I’m 65 now and still “talking back my generation”. We wanted change, we wanted freedom … we failed. Crass populism, à la Hitler or Mussolini, is back in full force, and political correctness is the new way to gag people. When you can’t use certain words, alarm bells should ring, because it means that you are not allowed to acknowledge certain realities for what they truly are. Racism is on of those words.