Muhammad Asif became the second Pakistani cueist to win the IBSF World Snooker Championship in Sofia, Bulgaria, after overpowering England’s Gary Wilson 10-8 in a thrilling final on Sunday night.
Muhammad Yousuf was the first Pakistani to clinch the world amateur crown in South Africa in 1994. “I have been dethroned,” were Yousaf’s first words over Asif’s victory.
Two-time national champion Muhammad Asif, who was unbeaten in the tournament, won the title after defeating England’s Gary Wilson 10-8 in a match lasting over nine hours.
Thirty-year-old Asif, from Faisalabad, is the third Pakistani to reach the final of the amateur World Championship as well – Yousaf won the title in 1994, whereas Muhammad Saleh lost to India’s Pankaj Advani in 2004.
This was Asif’s fourth appearance in the tournament. His previous best run at the event was last year; he was ranked among the top 32 cueists at the time.
Asif started off his campaign in Bulgaria with confidence, defeating Australia’s Vinnie Calabrese 5-0 in the first round. He overcame Egypt’s Wael Talaat 5-2 in the pre-quarterfinal, crushed Syria’s Mer Alkojah 6-2 in the quarterfinal and outclassed Malta’s Alex Borg 7-1 in the semifinal to make it to the final.
He started Sunday’s match confidently as well, taking a 6-3 lead at the end of the first session in the best of 19-frame final. The 30-year-old continued the match at 7-5 despite Wilson’s break of 111 in the 12th frame.
However, Wilson regained his focus in the subsequent two frames, equalising the score 7-7.
The two battled in the 14th frame. Asif claimed it only to lose the next one as Wilson forced the break of 59 in the 16th frame.
Asif bounced back, however, leading 9-8 and sealing victory in the 17th frame at 64-0 to clinch the trophy.
“It’s unbelievable, I’m just counting my breath, it’s what I have been chasing for the past 10 years,” Asif told The Express Tribune. “I can’t believe I have achieved what Yousaf Bhai achieved so many years ago.”
Meanwhile, the 60-year-old former world champion Yousaf, who was following Asif’s match online back at his home in Rawalpindi, said he feels he has been dethroned by Asif.
“Now I can’t say that I‘m the only snooker world champion from Pakistan, I feel a little jealous now,” said Yousaf.
“But I am happy, Asif’s win is good news for Pakistanis, especially considering everything bad that is going on in the country. Asif has just opened the door for other players in Pakistan. He just made history and I can tell you that he changed more than his own fortunes. His victory at the world championship will help Pakistani snooker in a great way.”
Offering advice to the new world champion, Yousaf said he will have to continue with his form in order to maintain the title.
Chairman of Pakistan Billiards and Snooker Association (PBSA) and Vice President of International Billiards and Snooker Federation (IBSF) Asghar Valika described Muhammad Asif’s triumph as another golden moment in the history of Pakistan sports.
“Asif’s triumph will again boost and revive the sport in the country. I am absolutely delighted with this win,” said Asghar Valika, under whose Muhammad Yousuf won the title in Johannesburg in 1994.
“It’s great news for Asian snooker fraternity as this is second time when world title came to this continent after Iran’s Hossein Vafaei Ayouri l won the crown,” said a beaming Valika.
He said Asif’s victory was of great significance because he achieved this without any technical support and presence of a coach.
President of Sindh Billiards and Snooker Association Jamil Sakrani announced Rs100,000 for Muhammad Asif.
Meanwhile, Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf also extended his heartiest felicitations to Asif on his victory.
In his message, the premier said that the whole nation is proud of his victory and wishes him many more in future as well.
(With additional input from AGENCIES)
Published in The Express Tribune, December 3rd, 2012.