Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - China building a new ‘home for snooker’




China building a new ‘home for snooker’

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
China’s Ding Junhui plays a shot against Mark Allen during their second-round match in the 2018 Shanghai Masters on Tuesday. AFP

China building a new ‘home for snooker’

A sleepy corner of central China, nestled among mountains and forests, is making a bold attempt to rival England’s Sheffield as the home of world snooker.

Yushan County, which bills itself as the “first billiard sports capital” worldwide, is indicative of China’s hopes to play a major role in the growth of snooker.

Yushan, meaning “Jade Mountain”, lies in the rugged province of Jiangxi and has a population of about 500,000 – small by Chinese standards.

But it has outsized ambitions and is building a 4,000-seat arena tailor-made for cue sports. There will also be a billiard sports academy, museum and athletes’ village.

The project will cost ¥2 billion ($290 million), the China Daily says, and could be completed in as little as two years.

Yushan already hosts the World Open, an international tournament with a nearly $1 million prize fund – one of six events on Chinese soil on this year’s World Snooker calendar.

“They’ve said, ‘Look, wow, we love this, we want to make Yushan a home for snooker,” said Jason Ferguson, chairman of snooker’s governing body the WPBSA.

“The riverside is all being redesigned with a snooker theme and will be renamed ‘Snooker Bay’,” added Ferguson, a former top-level player.

Yushan officials have visited Sheffield and studied its famous Crucible Theatre, which hosts the annual world championships and is to snooker what Wembley is to football or Wimbledon to tennis.

Why Yushan? The region’s bluestone slate is used for snooker tables by Beijing-based Xing Pai Star, which produces elite-level tables and is the developer for the snooker city project, which was unveiled last year.

Speaking at the Shanghai Masters, one of the biggest events on the snooker calendar, Ferguson said Yushan officials and the WPBSA are supporting the initiative.

That could give Yushan a greater chance of success than other areas in China, where grand development plans often do not materialise.

Snooker loopy

For any sport making inroads into the potentially lucrative China market, a stand-out home star is a must – and snooker found it when Ding Junhui won the China Open in 2005 as a teenage amateur.

There are now nine Chinese players in the world top 50, with Ding ranked sixth and one of the sport’s biggest names.

Mark Selby, the world number one and a three-time world champion, has witnessed up close how the sport has grown in the country.

“My first time in China was in 2002, coming to Shanghai to play in a tournament, and [the event] was nowhere near as big as it is now,” the Englishman said after battling back to defeat home player Zhou Yuelong on Tuesday.

“I think that’s down to Ding Junhui. We owe him a lot, he’s obviously a fantastic player and one of the greats of the game now.

“Winning that first tournament in 2005 when he was 18 sort of put China on the map – that was probably the best thing that could happen to snooker.”

Fast-forward to today, and Ferguson believes that snooker can call itself a national sport in China.

A specialist snooker academy opened in Beijing in 2013, and in 2016, 210 million Chinese tuned in to see Ding lose the world championships final to Selby.

“Certainly in terms of scale of participation, television audiences and just general popularity, something practised from school level all the way to professional level,” he said.

“The growth has been continuous year on year [since their first tournament nearly 20 years ago].

“It’s been an exciting journey for us.”

MOST VIEWED

  • First Khmer woman to pass out of West Point

    The life of a soldier certainly isn’t for everyone. The training is gruelling, the hours long and there’s no room for excuses. On top of that, soldiers must be ready to respond to sudden threats at a moment’s notice. Just ask Sithyka

  • Tourists urged not to skip trip

    The Ministry of Tourism has called on international tourists not to cancel trips to Cambodia, but urged them to adhere to several dos and don’ts when arriving in the Kingdom during the Covid-19 pandemic. The ministry released an eight-point instruction manual on Wednesday published

  • The taxman cometh – Cambodia’s capital gains tax casts the net on individual taxpayers

    In a country where only limited personal income tax existed, the new taxation law beginning January 1, 2021, will make taxpayers out of Cambodians, whether they are ready for it or not About two years ago, a little known amendment was made to Article 7 of the Law

  • Cambodian-American gets Star Trek treatment

    Kevin Ung, a Cambodian-American whose family escaped genocide during the Khmer Rouge’s reign of terror, was recently selected from thousands of applicants to participate in the Television Academy Foundation’s inaugural 2020 Star Trek Command Training Programme, a course intended to give hands-on filmmaking experience

  • Cambodia seeks to be transport hub

    Cambodia is working on several fronts to modernise its transport infrastructure and services, concentrating on opening new international gates to relieve and balance traffic congestion at its borders, Minister of Public Works and Transport Sun Chanthol said on Thursday. This is part of the Kingdom’

  • Deminers unearth ancient lion statue

    Cambodia Mine Action Centre (CMAC) director-general Heng Ratana told The Post on Tuesday that a statue of a lion was found by mine clearance experts while they were digging for a development project. It was sent to the Ministry of Culture and Fine Arts last