Billiards is a sport comprised of three sub-categories: snooker, carom, and pool. Snooker includes two games, played with either six red balls or the standard 15.
The IBSF World Six-Reds and Team Snooker 2016 will be held in Sharm El-Sheikh in July. Daily News Egypt met with Ahmed Galal, the African champion in the sport for the past three years. Galal also won fourth place in the 2000 African Decathlon Championship.
Did you play any other sports when you were younger?
I used to practice gymnastics from age four but I had to stop for a year when I was 12-years old as my mother fell ill. At that time I was living in Port Foad, where sporting organisations and activities are less developed than in Cairo.
Afterwards, did you practice any other sports?
Yes, I started athletics. I focused on medium- and long-distance running, beginning with 400-metre races and then 800 metres. Later, I began training for decathlons.
Can you tell us more about the decathlon?
The decathlon race is considered the champion of champions as the competition includes 10 track and field events: a 100-metre run, a 110-metre obstacle course, a 400-metre run, and a 1,500-metre run. These track events are interspersed by field events such as a long jump, a javelin throw, a discus throw, and others.
The decathlon is held over two days. Competitors can gain points whenever their distance increases and their performance time decreases. The total points are calculated at the end so the advantage of this sport that, even if you have a bad start, you can improve your performance by the end to have a good result or even win.
What are your achievements in this sport?
I was lucky to come in fourth place in the 2000 African Decathlon Championship. The champion of this tournament was Egyptian.
When did you start playing snooker?
When I was young, in parallel with practicing gymnastics. One time I met with my friend to play billiards, but the trainer did not allow me to play. Then another time, we had a party at the sporting club and I got to play billiards. While I was playing the trainer entered, so I sat down, but afterwards the trainer invited me to play. He liked my performance and invited me to join training on a constant basis.
When I started to win national championships, I was ranked eighth nationally. A year later, I was ranked fourth.
How are snooker rankings organised in Egypt?
We play five championships. The ranking of the players is determined according to the points of these championships.
What are your international victories?
In 2013, I won the African Six-Reds Championship, held in Morocco. To be honest I did not expect this victory! Then in 2014, I won the African Six-Reds Championship, held in Sudan. In 2015, I won the African Six-Reds Championship, held in Tunisia.
So, 2013 was a fruitful beginning for you. How did your first African victory serve your snooker career?
As the first two champions in Africa qualified me for the World Six-Reds Championships, I participated in the 2013 World Six-Reds Championship in Thailand.
The world championship in Thailand was another story. It consists of 48 players, 16 of whom are professionals. So I was able to meet highly qualified international snooker players and champions.
In the same year, another world championship was held in Ireland, where I also participated.
Despite some concerns of safety issues in Egypt, it still hosts the six-reds international championships. Besides the 2016 World Snooker Championship to be celebrated this July in Sharm El-Sheikh, has Egypt hosted a previous six-reds championship?
Yes, in 2014 it was also celebrated in Sharm El-Sheikh. The previous year in Ireland and in Pakistan in 2015. As Africa’s champion, I participated in these three world events.
How are the 2016 World Snooker Championship’s results important?
The top four champions in this event will qualify for the Six-Red World Snooker Championship, which is held in Thailand. This championship is sponsored by SangSom, a dominant brand in the Thai spirits market. The award for first place exceeds $70,000.
Have you won any 15 reds snooker tournaments?
I came in seventh place in the 2013 African Snooker Championship, held in Morocco.
There is a stereotype that billiards is a lazy sport, or let us say, a sport that does not require any effort. What is your opinion?
I spoke on TV about this previously. This is completely untrue. The match takes about three or even four hours. Aside from standing up for this duration, imagine that you have to fully concentrate, even if you sit down, your mind has to be active, while you are under pressure.
For example, before you shoot you must estimate the distance between the cue and the balls to ensure a good score, as an error, even by millimetres, can have huge ramifications in your results.
In order to have good concentration you must be fit. Many billiards players train for several hours per day And go to the gym regularly. Ronnie O’Sullivan, an English professional snooker champion, regularly trains for and competes in marathon.
So despite mainly being a sport of the mind, it requires significant physical effort?
The table is 4 metres by 2 metres so the average distance walked by the player per match is calculated to be 4 to 5 kilometres. Billiards players also bend over the table a lot, moving several muscles throughout play. In order not to strain ourselves, we should train.
Does snooker require more attention than pool?
Of course, the balls and pockets in pool are larger. On the other hand, in snooker, the balls, pockets, and table are bigger, which requires more concentration.