KARACHI - ANISUDDIN KHAN- Hossein Vafaei Ayouri of Iran, who hit the headlines when he won the world amateur crown recently in India, may face stiff test from some of the best Asian stars in the Seven-nation Jubilee Insurance International Snooker tournament which commenced here today (Sunday) noon at the well-guarded local five-star hotel which has been made the venue of the event.

Those who could challenge the world champion are seed second Thepachaiya Un Nooh of Thailand, seed three Yasin Merchant of India and Noppon Saengkham of Thailand seed four.

All these three have glittering international career and in the recent past have done well at Asian level. India’s Yasin Merchant has been Asian champion and is the most experienced player. Yasin is not new to Pakistan snooker fans, they have seen him playing at Karachi Club and international events held in Karachi for a number of times. For him it would be like playing here before his home supportive crowd.

Pakistan has entered eight players in the championship which has been sponsored by Jubilee Insurance Limited, a company who in recent years has supported the Pakistan Billiards and Snooker Association (PBSA) in organising its events both in senior and junior categories.

The PBSA has taken the bold step to host an international event at a time when foreign players avoid playing in Pakistan for alleged security reasons. The association not only succeeded in convincing their foreign counterparts to send teams but even managed to rein in sponsor at a difficult financial time for the country. They were so persuasive in convincing Pakistani interior officials that they finally succeeded in getting visas for the Indian player who are expected to be in town by Saturday evening to be in time for the action.

Eight Pakistan players in the championship would be Naveen Perwani, Sharjeel Mahmood, M Sajjad, Vishin Gir, Sultan Muhammad, Sohail Shahzad, M Asif and Abdul Sattar.

Pakistan is pining hope on M Sajjad to emerge as dark horse of the championship as he is the most celebrated and successful player at international and particularly Asian circuit. He has played in the final of Asian championship and first foreigner to win a major event in Thailand.

Four tables are being laid in a hall on the ground floor of the championship where sitting arrangements for about hundred spectators have been made. As many as 20 top cueists from Iran, Thailand, India, Bahrain and UAE, Egypt and host Pakistan will make their appearance in the six-day event which carries small amount of US$2000 for the winner.

The contesting players have been placed in four groups of five players each. After league group round the two at the top of the points table will reach the quarter-finals. League rounds would be best-of-seven frames, quarter-finals best-of-nine, semi-finals best-of-11 and final best-of-13.  Thailand is the first foreign team to arrive here. Other teams will reach Karachi by Saturday late evening.

In Group A, the players are Hossein Vafaei Ayouri (Iran), Noppon Saengkham (Thailand), Naveen Perwani (Pakistan), Hussain Mahmood Ali (Bahrain), Sharjeel Mehmood (Pakistan).

Group B comprising Thepchaiya Un Nooh (Thailand), Habib Subah (Bahrain), M Sajjad (Pakistan), M Faisal Khan (India), Vishan Gir (Pakistan).

Group C consists of Yasin Merchant (India), M Al Joaker (UAE), Sultan Muhammad (Pakistan), M Ibrahim (Egypt), Sohail Shahzad (Pakistan).

In Group D, the players are M Mustafa Shehab(UAE), Yaser Ahmed M El Sherbiny (Egypt), M Asif (Pakistan), Saeed Abooyesani (Iran), Abdul Sattar (Pakistan).

As many as seven matches will be played on the opening day today (Sunday).

The matches are: Naveen Perwani (Pakistan) v Mahmood Ali (Bahrain), M Sajjad (Pakistan) v M Fasial Khan (India), Sultan Muhammad (Pakistan) v M Ibrahim (Egypt), Noppon Saengkham (Thailand) v Sharjeel Mahmood (Pakistan), Habib Subah (Bahrain) v Vishin Gir (Pakistan), M Al Joaker (UAE) v Sohail Shahzad (Pakistan) and Yaser Ahmed M ElSherbiny(Egypt) v Abdul Sattar (Pakistan).