Snooker balls not for Palestinians?
Cueist Khaled Alastal narrates how difficult it is to even get a nod from Israeli authorities to buy snooker balls.
Snooker in Palestine, just like the country, is in a state of disarray. Cueist Khaled Alastal narrates how difficult it is to even get a nod from Israeli authorities to buy snooker balls. He also recalls how he was denied a visa to train in the UK.
"Even though I am from Palestine, I live in Jordan. In my country, you have an Israeli side where you have good facilities to play snooker but not everyone can go there. If a Palestinian has to go and practise he has to get permission from the Israeli authorities, which is very. very difficult," Alastal told Khaleej Times during the Asian 6-Red Teams Championship at Novotel Al Bustan Hotel in Abu Dhabi.
In the individual events, Alastal won two matches and lost three, and in teams chal-lenge, he along with Malik Jadallah won two and lost two. They didn't make the cut for knockout rounds. "Our level is not that high as we lack exposure. But we will win someday," the Palestinian said assertively.
Rolling back memories, the 32-year-old said: "I started playing when I was eight. My uncle used to take me to clubs and I got interested in the game.
"But it's only in the last eight years that I have started playing as per the rules. In 2013, I went to a tournament in Qatar. I began to observe other players and spoke to their coaches.
"That was a great learning curve for me.
He regrets not having a coach. "We need someone to guide us. Every player here has a coach but we are our own coach. Since there is none to guide, we have less players back home."
"We have a very good player but he couldn't come for this event because of issues back home," he said in undertones.
Alastal further elaborated on the travails of his travel. "Palestine is a poor country. We don't have a rich federation. You know the situation in Palestine with Israel."
"And we don't have oil or a good economy and in turn the support for our association is not there. So, we almost pay for everything from our pocket. The federation tries to help with accommodation and other things. Sometimes they make arrangements for one player."
Alastal struggles to meet ends despite having a job. "I am working in the Jordan tourism department. Snooker is a costly game and we have to train every day to be able to take part in tournaments. Thankfully, my family support is great and they manage things. They back my love for snooker."
Alastal said snooker is widely 'misunderstood' and has a 'bad reputation' in his country.
"The reputation of those playing the game is not good and people don't want to send their children to this game. They have some misunderstandings.
"These people will have to change their mindset. How long can I or my team mate play? We need to have some young player representing Palestine soon."
Alastal said he wished to open an academy but 'with the present situation that dream is very, very difficult to fulfil'.
"I once tried to go to Sheffield in the United Kingdom to join and learn about their academies but I was denied visa because I am a Palestinian.
"I had got an invitation to attend the academy and a sponsor too. I had arranged everything for one-month training.
"I went to embassy and filled all required papers but was not given a visa all because of my nationality." He affirmed that all the required documents were submitted."
And as Alastal speaks, more skeletons tumble from the closet.
"The Israelis won't allow us to buy many things. We have to get permission to buy table and even the balls. There are many questions asked as to why you need the balls, its purpose and so on."
"In Palestine, it's very difficult to arrange basic things. The taxes too are very high. We have double taxation - the Israelis and Palestinian too. So, a 5,000-dirham table will be 10,000 dirhams back home."
"Despite all the difficulties we face, it's the love for snooker that brings us here," he said.
Meanwhile, referee Munther Awartani - who lives in Palestine - reveals how difficult it is to train in his country and promote the game.
"I am a Class-III referee and am here for training. I am an official 9-ball referee," he said in feeble voice.
Awartani said the situation remains tense back home and the chances for growth of the game are 'very hard'.
"There are just three snooker clubs - one in Bethlehem and two in Hebron. I train children there for free but because of the prevailing situation travelling through road is difficult. So, I go to the centres once in two months."
Awartani thanked the UAE organisers for conducting such an event and hoped against all hope that home players will finish at a better position in the next tournament.
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