‘Our focus has always been to do the best for the players’
International Billiards and Snooker Federation (IBSF) President Mubarak Hamad Al Khayarin throws light on his tenure and the plans ahead.
Qatar’s Mubarak Hamad Al Khayarin has been the president of the International Billiards and Snooker Federation for the last three years. His term ends in November 2020. The veteran sports administrator talks about the challenges he has faced and the efforts to spot and groom talent at home.
There is one more year to go for the IBSF elections in November 2020. How has your experience been in the last three years?
Our focus has been to always support the players from different countries under the IBSF to play the sport. We have always ensured that the players get to play in international or Asian-level tournaments.
It has been a rocky relationship with the World Professional Billiards and Snooker Association (WPBSA). What do you have to say about it?
The focus of the WPBSA is on the professional players and their goals are different. Also, the WPBSA has a lot of financial backing. We are different from them. Our role is to help the amateur players. After I took over as the IBSF president, we conducted five new international tournaments in Qatar. The focus was to help the up and coming players in terms of finance as well as skills. The budget for such tournaments is huge. We received plenty of support from Qatar’s Sports Ministry to conduct the events. Our focus has always been to do the best for the players.
There is another challenge we face – lack of television coverage. If we can ensure that, it will definitely lead to more sponsors and help improve the sport.
Not getting into the Olympics must have been disappointing? Will there be more attempts in the future?
Getting into the Olympics is very tough. There are plenty of issues cue sports face and they need to be fixed. Issues regarding sponsors, administration and other areas as well. But we are making earnest efforts to ensure that we get there.
What are Qatar national team’s goals for the new season?
We want our players to take part in as many international tournaments as possible. We will be sending them to regional as well as continental events. Next year we have many international tournaments in Doha and our players will take part in them.
Qatar has hosted many tournaments in the past. Has that helped motivate the country’s young children or youth to take up the sport?
Till now it has not been easy to find a talented player who could challenge the best in Asia, but we have had some good results as a team. In the World Team Cup held in Doha in July, Qatar finished third. In the Asian Indoor Games in Turkmenistan in 2017 our snooker team finished second. Our billiards team has also been doing well in international tournaments. We are aware that we need to groom new players to replace our seniors in the next four to five years, so we have been focusing on programmes to find talented youngsters.
Do you have any special programmes at the schools or universities?
We have our coaches going to about 15 schools and six universities to scout for talented players on a weekly basis. We also watch out for emerging talent during the tournaments we conduct in the schools and colleges. Apart from this, we invite them to our federation where we conduct some tournaments exclusively for students.
In our attempts to popularise the sport, we have also placed tables at various government institutions. We also conduct tournaments for many government departments and ministries. We are trying different ways to improve awareness about the sport.
What are the challenges you face in getting youngsters to take up the sport?
Internet and technology is the major hurdle. It is very difficult to get the youth away from these things. It is challenging, but we have had some measure of success where we have found a few players under 15 years of age. We have charted out a training programme for them to help hone their skills.
Are you optimistic that more youngsters will take up the sport in future?
Yes. If we consistently get good results, like in recent times, there will be more players motivated to take up the sport.
Will you be inviting international players or coaches to train the Qatar national team?
Before every major tournament we try to bring in an international player so that they speak to our players and try and iron out the creases. We brought Nigel Bond who is a professional snooker player just before the World Team Cup in Qatar. He is also a coach with the WPBSA. He was here for two weeks and that helped the team finish third.
We brought Jimmy White (former world No. 2 in snooker) here in 2017. And what he taught the Qatari players helped them win a silver medal at the Asian Indoor Games.