Pakistan and India’s estranged political and sporting relationship might not be showing any signs of being resolved soon, but snooker stars from both countries did their bit to improve relations at the IBSF World 6-Red Championship in Karachi.
Major events in the cricket and tennis world are still proving troublesome for Pakistan to host following the 2008 Mumbai terror attacks and the gun attack on the Sri Lanka team bus a year later in Lahore.
Pakistan did, however, hold a one-day series with Zimbabwe and are still hopeful of a Test series with India some time soon, though recent incidents seem to have put those plans on hold.
Being handed responsibility of welcoming snooker players from 18 nations has come as a welcome boost.
The World 6-Red Championship is a Twenty20-style individual and team event for both men and women, featuring representatives from Afghanistan to Australia, Bahrain to Iran, and Latvia to the United Arab Emirates.
Maxim Cassis, vice-president of the International Billiards and Snooker Federation, paid tribute, saying: “Pakistan is the country of snooker, with two IBSF world champions in the legendary Muhammad Yousuf and Muhammad Asif.
“Pakistan is building and preparing world champions. Many more will arrive in the years to come.”
Karachi commissioner Shoaib Siddiqui added: “It’s a proud moment for all of us as players from various parts of the world gather here. The successful staging of the event will build confidence of the players that Pakistan is safe for sports.”
India’s multi-snooker and billiard title-holder Pankaj Advani successfully defended his crown,
beating Chinese teen sensation Yan Bingtao 5-2 in the finals of the individual event on Tuesday (11).
Advani had to come from behind to defeat Pakistan’s Asjad Iqbal in his semi-final, while Mohammad Asif lost to Bingtao in the other last-four encounter.
“It’s a great feeling to successfully defend my title, snooker is such an unpredictable game,” said Advani.
Hong Kong’s Ng On-Yee overcame second-seed Indian Vidya Pillai in the final to claim the women’s World 6-Red Championship.
“I’m absolutely over the moon,” stated an elated On-Yee. “I felt very nervous even though I’ve won this tournament before because Vidya is a very good player.”
On-Yee defeated top-seed India’s Amee Kamani 4-1 in the semi-final.
“I’m really frustrated about the way the game went,” said Pillai. “I just couldn’t get the balls to go in and once she was 4-0 up, I knew there was very little I could do.
“I’m grateful to the PBSA for their hospitality. The event was well-organised, the security arrangements were great and I’m surprised more players and countries didn’t show up.”
India’s top cueist Chitra Magimairaj admitted she was initially apprehensive about making the trip but soon changed her mind when she arrived at the Movenpick Hotel venue.
“Honestly I was very worried about coming to Pakistan and Karachi, having heard so many things about it and also because of the relations between the two countries,” Magimairaj said.
“But once we arrived here, we were happy to see the hospitality shown towards us and other teams and the excellent arrangements made in this five-star hotel.
“My one complaint now is that the players want to go out and do some shopping, sightseeing and eat out, but due to the security surrounding us we were not allowed to do that until now.
“In a way it is okay with us because we feel safe in such a secure environment and it allows us to focus totally on our game.”
Alamgir Sheikh, of the Pakistan Snooker Federation, was glad his neighbours had decided to send a strong team to compete.
“They have come in full force. We wanted them to come because Chitra and Advani are defending the eight red ball world titles in individual categories,” he said.
Chitra, a two-time World Ladies Billiards and Snooker Association world champion and national pool title-holder, was open to doing all she could to rebuild bridges.
“I would like to visit and play more often in Pakistan,” she continued. “I just feel sometimes that if relations improve between the two countries, we can have more sporting ties. We have a lot in common.”
Advani commented: “Pakistan has also become quite a force in world snooker, so it is great competing with their top players as well. Great hospitality and event.”
The team event began on Wednesday, with 33 teams vying for the title.