Abu Dhabi: Battling against all odds, Hassanain Khalid of Iraq has landed at the capital to follow his new sporting passion — snooker.
A former national tennis and table tennis player, Khalid is a part of the four-man Iraqi contingent at the 6 Reds and Team Asian Snooker Championships in Abu Dhabi.
Khalid, like his countrymen, is trying to emerge out of the war-torn country to make a name for himself, albeit all on his own.
“You all know how it is out there in Iraq. Anything can happen any time but you have to move on with life and keep trying. I played tennis and table tennis for several years and now I feel I can contribute to snooker,” says Khalid, who has been practicing the sport for over eight years now.
Like all other sports in Iraq, the support for snooker is understandably next to nothing — but Khalid is in no mood to fret over it.
“What can you do when the state of affairs in your country is like that? We have to tackle more serious issues than sports. Every day we witness blasts here and there. It is a fight for survival for many; so how can you expect funding to come into sports,” says the 29-year-old.
For Khalid this tour is a learning experience and he is keen to make the most of it.
However, despite losing all his opening round games he is upbeat and feels he can beat the best in time.
“I don’t think the gap between me and them is more. It is just that this is my first tournament and I lack a bit of competitive experience. These top players have coaches and that’s what we lack,” added Khalid, who runs a pharmacy back home in Baghdad.
“You can say I’m among the lucky few and thankfully, I managed to bear the costs to live my passion. My family is also supportive and I will try to keep going as long as possible. Travelling to tournaments is the only way I can keep improving,” said Khalid, who revealed there are 20 odd snooker players in Iraq who he feels can make a mark at the international level.
“There is interest for the sport and there are quite a few training facilities. I also watch matches of top players and try to learn some of the techniques. My compatriots also do that and you can say, we are our own coaches,” said Khalid, as he heads off for his next round.
Meanwhile, India’s Aditya Mehta recorded his third win on Thursday morning beating Ahmad Aseeri of Saudi Arabia. UAE’s No 1 Mohammad Shehab, however, is on a roll with three wins in three in Group E matches. Shehab’s compatriot, Mohammad Al Joaker has won just one out of three games, winning 6 frames and losing 14. India’s Pankaj Advani also powered his way to the top of Group B by winning his third contest against Khalid Alastal of Palestine. Pakistan’s Mohammad Asif has also been impressive with three wins to lead Group D.