After a nerve-wrecking triumph in the finals of World Championship, the victor returns to his homeland as a hero. Unfortunately, he does not get the reception that a hero rightfully deserves. Instead, the only people to greet him at the airport are a handful of representatives of the country’s Sports Board. This unsung hero is Pakistan’s cueist, Muhammad Asif, who, despite having his hard-won IBSF World Snooker Championship 2019 trophy in his hands, was not recognized by the very country he was representing on the world stage. This event alone depicts the melancholy state of snooker in Pakistan.

Surprising as it may seem, it is not cricket or hockey that have brought Pakistan the most laurels in recent history. In fact, it is snooker that has kept Pakistan on its peak on the international stage. Pakistan is fortunate enough to have been blessed with gifted snooker players like Hamza Akbar, winner of the ACBS Asian Championship in 2015, and Muhammad Asif, who won the IBSF World Snooker Championship twice in 2012 and 2019. If we take a glance at the 1990s and early 2000s, we see the playing field being dominated by the likes of Muhammad Yousaf, who secured the IBSF World Snooker Championship in 1994 and the World Masters title in 2006, besides also claiming the ACBS Asian Snooker Championship in 1998. The presence of young specialists like the winner of the IBSF U-18 Snooker Championship 2017, Naseem Akhtar alludes to a bright future for snooker, but only in terms of individual talent. In spite of all the honors the cueists have brought to Pakistan, the disregard of the government for snooker has persisted.

The Billiard and Snooker Federation (PBSF Pakistan) has long been complaining about the meager funds and resources it has received from the government. Consequently, cueists are deprived of the facilities to polish their skills. The monthly remuneration received by these players is less than the minimum wage set in Pakistan of at least Rs 15000. Only handfuls of players are  paid above Rs 8000. The misery of our national heroes is further aggravated by the fact that they are forced to spend money from their own pockets or borrow it from others in order to pay the participation fees of competitions that they eventually manage to win.

In a video message, Asjad Iqbal, the winner of the SAARC Snooker Championship, 2019, expressed his frustration saying, “Forget incentives, we don’t want them, help us to such an extent that we can return the money we have borrowed from others.”

In sheer contrast, cricketers can earn salaries of up to several lacs, have plenty of facilities for training and get massive support from the government in terms of publicity. It is quite clear that governments have been giving preference to cricket over all other sports. However, it is a shame that sportsmen playing snooker do not receive a fraction as much attention or appreciation as cricketers, let alone other incentives. Still, even in such adverse circumstances, these players have been proving their mettle in competitions all over the world. The determination of these players must be valued.