Guangzhou: His list of achievements is innumerable. But now after spending more than a decade and a half representing his adopted country, former world number two Saleh Mohammad is back where he belongs — in his beloved Afghanistan.
"I want to give back something to my country and the only way I can do this is to assist Afghanistan's development in sports, particularly in snooker as that is what I am good at," Saleh Mohammad told Gulf News here on Friday.
Born in 1973 and a regular visitor to the UAE, Saleh Mohammad started as an amateur snooker player in Pakistan due to the strife in his homeland. He turned professional in 1995, representing Pakistan at various world events and competitions.
In the 2003 IBSF World Snooker Championships in China, Saleh Mohammad lost to Indian Pankaj Advani, ironically his country's lone gold medalist at the 16th Asian Games so far.
However, Saleh Mohammad will go down in the history of the sport as his break of 141 still stands as the highest on the international circuit.
He also won the silver medal in the doubles snooker at the 2002 Busan Asian Games besides being the national snooker champion of Pakistan on a few occasions too. But it was the call of his country that beckoned him. "Sometime in 2008 I thought I had to get back to where I belong," Saleh explained.
"It was not an easy decision to make as I had been all over the world and suddenly I was going back to my own country without knowing what the reality would be," he added.
Luckily for him, Afghanistan had done well to re-build itself and important cities like the capital Kabul had several top-class snooker facilities to offer. So Saleh did the next best thing by assembling a national team for Afghanistan. At these Asian Games some of these players, namely Bahuddin Fakhri, Nadir Khan Sultan and Mohammad Zahi Sen have been making quite an impression in snooker.
"My role is to guide these players. And at the same time I need to play and perform in the competition as well. It is like leading from the front. It is far more convincing that way rather than just empty words and talk," Saleh said.
At the same time Saleh doubles up as the national coach for Saudi Arabia where he has a contract till February next year.