When the Afghanistan cricket team returned to Kabul from Dubai, after winning the qualifying tournament for the 2010 World Twenty20 in February last year, thousands of fans from across the country had travelled to the airport to welcome them.
The scenes were repeated in December when the team arrived home after winning the Asian Games silver medal and the Intercontinental Cup.
"You are our heroes," said Hamid Karzai, the Afghan president, as sponsors lined up to shower the players with gifts. A bank promised each player a new car while a private airline offered US$20,000 (Dh73,400) to the team.
Mohammad Rais Senzahi can only dream of such adulation.
He is representing Afghanistan at the snooker World Cup in Bangkok, along with Mohammed Saleh, but acknowledges few people would be aware of that fact.
"Snooker is not like cricket," he said. "We don't get anything in snooker. We usually have to spend from our own pockets for everything.
"The cricketers have contracts, get salaries. It is a completely different story. Just for playing, he gets enough match fees to live comfortably."
As is the case with most of the Afghan cricketers, Senzahi, 29, has lived most of his life in Pakistan. He first became attracted to the game while working at a snooker club in Lahore. Picking up a cue for the first time 2000, within three years he was playing on the Pakistan circuit.
With the situation in his war-torn home country improving steadily, Senzahi returned to Afghanistan last year at the invitation of Saleh, the losing finalist at the 2003 World Amateur Championship, also known as the ISBF (International Billiards and Snooker Federation) World Championships.
Senzahi does not regret the decision, but admits there are many difficulties facing snooker in Afghanistan. There is a lack of proper facilities and the public generally frowns on the sport.
"We can do anything for the country, win anything, but we still do not get many sponsors because most people look at snooker as a form of gambling," said Senzahi, who reached the semi-final of the Asian Championships in April.
"There, we don't have proper tables. We play on locally made tables, which are covered in cheap cloth. We cannot afford to buy good cues, because then we won't have much money left for anything else."
Travelling for tournaments is also not easy for the Afghans with their limited budget, but Senzahi is determined to succeed.
"We love this game and because of this we try to do our best," he said. "There is not much support from outside, we just have to do everything on our own."
Over in Syria, football predominates the sporting landscape, but snooker players enjoy a lot more support than those in Afghanistan.
The snooker federation there have appointed Sundar Jairaj, an Indian, as their coach and he is excited about the future prospects of his wards, such as Omar Al Kojah and Karam Fatima, the No 1 and No 2-ranked players in Syria.
Among his proteges, Jairaj counts India's Pankaj Advani, who along with Paul Mifsud of Malta is one of only two men to have won the World Amateur Championship in both snooker and billiards.
He arrived in Damascus ahead of the 2010 IBSF World Championship and said hosting the tournament has changed the face of snooker in the country. Syria are also bidding to host the Asian Snooker Championship next year.
The country imported 32 Shender snooker tables for the World Championship and the likes of Al Kojah, 24, and Fatima, 21, are benefiting from that now.
"I have been with the Syrian team for the past two years and in these two years, the game has grown tremendously, mainly because of the support of the Syrian Olympic Committee," Jairaj said. "They have seen a lot of future in the people playing this sport.
"When I went to Syria, these boys had never made it to the knockout stages of any tournament. Six months after I went there, we had the Vietnam Indoor Games and Al Kojha made it to the quarter-finals.
"Then he played the IBSF World Championship in India and made it to the round of 32. Fatima played the IBSF juniors and reached the top 16. So they have been making steady progress."
Having a coach present at all times has certainly helped the Syrians, but it is a luxury not available to the two players representing Pakistan at the World Cup: Mohammed Sajjad and Shahid Aftab.
Last month, the Pakistan Billiard and Snooker Association (PBSA) wrote a letter to the director general of the Pakistan Sports Board (PSB), requesting a grant "so that we can hire a coach for the team".
They never heard back from the PSB, but still Sajjad and Aftab managed to stun the Republic of Ireland, represented by Ken Doherty, a former world amateur and professional champion, and Fergal O'Brien, another professional, in their opening match of the World Cup on Monday.
"We're very disappointed to lose, but it's amazing that we both made a century break each and lost the match 3-2," said Doherty, who made 111 in frame one, while O'Brien scored 101 in the fifth frame. "The fellow [Aftab] that beat us both played really well."
Aftab believes he could produce such results consistently if he could get a coach to iron out his game.
"Until we get a coach, we will keep struggling at this level," he said. "We will never have the opportunity to go to the next level."
Snooker enjoys huge popularity in Pakistan, according to Aftab, but cricket - like in Afghanistan and India - is the bane of every other sport. Sponsorship is difficult to come by and players are usually left to struggle on their own.
Three years ago, 10 of the best Pakistan players, including Sajjad, had boycotted the national championship over the failure of the PSB to solve some of the basic problems for the national players. They were also demanding government jobs.
"Snooker is the most popular game in Pakistan," said Aftab, 29, who works at a snooker club in Faisalabad. "Everybody plays snooker, but the focus is always on cricket because of the media hype.
"So getting sponsorship for a sport like snooker is not very easy. It is an expensive game and the money available is not enough."
Saleh, who lived in Pakistan for 21 years before moving to Afghanistan in 2008, has witnessed these problems and is more realistic about the situation in his home country. He owns a club in Kabul with 25 tables and works with scores of budding youngsters there.
"Everybody knows the situation in the country, so we cannot really make unrealistic demands," he said. "We try to do the best we can.
"We have a lot of plans and we are hoping that in the next four or five years, we will be able to produce some really good youngsters." The growing profile of snooker in Afghanistan is also evident at the national championship, which attracts 32 players.
"Since I returned to Afghanistan around three years ago, the number of clubs has increased," Saleh said. "Now we have about 120 to 130 clubs.
"We have a lot of talent, especially among the 22 to 25 year olds. Seeing us, they get a lot of encouragement as well and they try harder.
"So we have been working hard on the juniors and hopefully, you will hear of them in the next couple of years."
Jairaj has similar hopes from Syria as well. "We have three Syrian championships," he said. "There are about six to eight players training with us. We have got about eight juniors also, and we have four ladies who are trying to play the game.
"Parents are now aware there is another sport that their child can play and there is a big rush at the clubs, especially during the holidays.
"It is really heartening to see parents bringing in their boys and girls to the billiards rooms and requesting training.
"So there is a lot of interest and talent in Syria and it is just a matter of time. They are in the learning process and I am sure they will make a mark on the Arab, Asian and world stage."