Qatar’s Ahmed Saif lines up his shot against Jordan’s Sulaiman Abu Salem in the Asian Snooker 6-Red Championship at the Qatar Billiards and Snooker Federation facility in Doha yesterday. PICTURE: Nasar TK
Two weeks ago, Ahmed Saif began the second event of Snooker Q-School against Zack Richardson in Sheffield, England. After bowing out of the first event a few days earlier, Saif had two more chances of achieving what had been his dream for long — making it to the professional tour.
After beating Jamie Clarke 4-1 a week later, he didn’t need the third event. He had created history. He had become the first snooker player from Qatar to make it to the Pro-Tour. He had achieved a feat his own. And it doesn’t matter what any other snooker player from the country does, nobody will be able to take this one achievement from him.
Another week later, Saif was at the Qatar Billiards and Snooker Federation’s facility in Doha, participating in the Asian Snooker 6-Red Championship.
And while his start to the tournament was anything but desirable, having lost 2-5 to Indian 6-Red national champion Shivam Arora, he came back strongly to win the next two matches.
On Friday evening, Saif beat Saudi Arabia’s Ahmed Asserri 5-2 and then followed it up with a close 5-4 victory over Jordan’s Sulaiman Abu Salem yesterday afternoon.
“It just feels very good to say the least,” Saif told Gulf Times after his match against Salem. “I had been working hard to get this chance for long, and now that I have made it, it feels really good.”
Saif thinks the best part about making it to the professional tour is that he will get to play often, which means more practice.
“I think it will make me practice more. Earlier, I used to probably play around two to three tournaments a year. That basically meant that I wasn’t getting enough practice. Now that I have to play on the professional tour, I will be playing more tournaments and that would be great practice. I would definitely improve a lot now,” he said.
Having become the first Qatari player to become professional in the sport is bound to enhance the profile of the sport in the country, even though one can only expect tangible results and improvements over the course of the year.
“I think it is a very big thing for Qatar snooker. And also for me,” he said. “And I think, in the coming years, two to three players from Qatar will definitely go to the Q School to grab their chances.”
Among his peers, Saif can feel the positivity around his promotion to the upper echelons of the sport. “All the players are very happy for me. After all, we are part of one team. They will maybe miss me in the national team now because I can’t play amateur tournaments; this is my last tournament. But by the way, I think they are very happy, they can watch me on TV. Get inspired,” he said.
Saif expects that a large part of his time will now be spent in England considering a lot of professional events happen here but he expects to practice in Qatar as and when he gets the opportunity between tournaments. “My family is here, my coach is here. Our federation is here. Also, it will be good for our players, for them to play with me,” Saif said.
He, however, hasn’t decided on his schedule for this year. “I have just made the cut and I don’t really know anything about the way the professional tour works. After this tournament, I will sit down and discuss it with my coach, the federation.”
Saif, like other Qatari players, is working on his game under the guidance of eleven-time World Billiards champion Mike Russell. “For me, he is the best out there. So I think the best one will help me and I will listen to him.”