When Mohammed Shehab returned with the snooker bronze from the World Games last year, the muted reception he received had him considering his future in the sport. But the enthusiasm is back and the UAE No 1 is looking to hit the highs at the Asian Snooker Championship, starting in Thailand today. The World Games feature sports that are not part of the Olympics and nearly 6,000 athletes took part at the event in Taiwan last July.
Getting to the podium Shehab thought, deserved a bit more recognition, but little was forthcoming from the UAE Olympic Association, which disappointed him. He had reached the semis, before falling to eventual champion Nigel Bond, who is a former world championship finalist The only competitor from the country at the event, however, Shehab bounced back from that defeat to trump Soheil Vahedi of Iran for the bronze medal.
Back at home, a disillusioned Shehab was on the verge of quitting the game, but the joy of playing and the pride of representing his country helped overcome the feelings of dejection and official apathy. "It is really difficult to leave your work and family, and give up everything for the sake of something that is not really being appreciated, despite all the achievements and all the hard work you put in," said the 33-year-old police officer, who has been playing the game since he was 14.
"We practise five to six hours every day and miss so many things in life. Personally, I have work and right now I am studying for my degree in IT. I also have a family so, there are plenty of other things in my life to take care of. "I am not giving any excuses, but I am just trying to say how busy it is for us. "I am not enjoying my life like others. I take so many hours of my family time for the sake of snooker. That is why when you are not getting appreciated, obviously you will think 'why I am doing this'. So it was like this before, one year ago. But now, I have realised I don't have to put so much pressure on myself for the sake of snooker, when I am not even getting appreciated.
"I told myself to enjoy the sport and do my best every time I go to represent my country. I think it is working for me. "After the World Games, I went to India [and] I did not achieve. I went to the Asian Championship and did not achieve much. Then I went to the Asian Indoor Games and defended my title. So it's working." Besides the two Asian Indoor gold medals and the bronze at the World Games, Shehab has an overflowing cabinet of trophies, which include 14 titles in the GCC Championships and six Arab championships.
With achievements like those already ticked on his list, Shehab believes he does not have much left to prove in the sport, but is still keen to see the UAE flag flying high at the Asian Championship. "Right now, everything is back on track," he says. "I am getting a bit of appreciation. I am happy and enjoying playing snooker at the moment." Meanwhile, the Chinese have pulled out of the PTT Asian Snooker Championship 2010 at the 11th hour and the irony is that it has left quite a number of title contenders grinning with relief, including Shehab."
The pullout of the seeded Chinese duo - world amateur No 3 Yu Delu and former world under-21 runner-up Tian Pengfei - had necessitated a re-draw as their respective groups had been weakened by their absence, while a number of good players were left to battle for the two knockout stage places each in the remaining six groups. In a communique received by the Billiard Sports Association of Thailand from their Chinese counterparts, it was claimed that the request for clearance for the team to participate in the Asian championship had been denied by their foreign ministry.
Mohammed Shehab heads Group D, which includes former world amateur No 4 Habib Sabah of Bahrain and 2009 Vietnam Asian Indoor Games silver medallist Nader Khan Sultani of Afghanistan and Poramin Danjirakul of Thailand. firstname.lastname@example.org