KARACHI: Hamza Akbar became the first Pakistani cueist to participate in the Professional Snooker World Cup recently but was so short on finances that he had to borrow money in order to submit the entry fee and sustain himself in UK.
The plight of the 22-year-old — making history by being first Pakistan-born player to take part in the professional circuit — highlights the failures of the Inter-Provincial Coordination (IPC) Sports Ministry and the Pakistan Sports Board (PSB) for not even handing Hamza his prize money for winning the Asian Snooker Championship; let alone support him on his historic journey.
History in the making: Akbar prepped up for world championship
Mohammad Nisar, who managed Hamza in the UK, helped out the young cueist while he was being ignored by Pakistan’s sports authorities.
“I’ve had a phenomenal experience as far as playing in the professional circuit is concerned because I had the chance to play with the best in the world,” Hamza told The Express Tribune.
But Hamza had his hands full in the UK. “I enjoyed playing the matches as much as I could and all my time away from the game was either spent practicing or trying to arrange money to sustain myself there,” he said. “I had to borrow £2,500 for my living expenses and my World Cup entry fee, which was £700 and was paid by Nisar just two days before the deadline.”
In desperation, Hamza had tried to contact IPC Sports Minister Riaz Hussain Pirzada every day, but his office staff kept snubbing him.
Hamza, who has taken admission in the Victoria Snooker Academy, has returned to Pakistan with a ranking of 96 — the first Pakistani to break into the top 150 — and a loan of £2500. He hopes on returning the loan when he visits the UK next month to participate in his second season of the professional circuit
“I badly wanted the money in order to meet my expenses and I used to get up at six in the morning to call the IPC Sports Minister but his staff kept making excuses. It was like begging for my own right,” he said. “I thought I would get a lot of support since I was making history and playing at the highest level but that was not the case. However, I’m happy that I’ve broken into the top 100 because you need that to survive in the professional circuit.”
Hamza Akbar: A rising star goes unnoticed
The Faisalabad-based cueist added that he has learnt a lot from the experience and will try to perform even better next season, which begins in May. However, he estimates he needs between £10,000 and £12,000 for accommodation, travelling, food and tournament entries.
Hamza claims fellow professionals told him that he has done a good job in his first year since even the world’s top players struggled in their initial years at the circuit.
“I aim to keep playing in the professional circuit,” he said. “The conditions there are just perfect and everything depends on your practice and game. You can’t make any excuses that the table was not right or that moisture was there.”
Published in The Express Tribune, April 27th, 2016.
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