Next month the UAE team of Mohammed Shehab and Mohammed Al Joker will be taking on snooker's elite players in the revived World Cup in Bangkok.
Emirati team hope for winning break at snooker's World Cup
ABU DHABI // Mohammed Shehab carries himself with the cool poise of Steve Davis; Mohammed Al Joker is more like the emotional Ronnie O'Sullivan.
They have opposite personalities, but put them together on a snooker table and they make a formidable team, the best from this part of the world. The two Emiratis have helped the UAE win 15 consecutive Gulf titles and six Arab Championships.
"We are like a couple. We understand each other, we support each other," Shehab said. "I know what's on his mind without him having to say it. I have been through every situation, at tournaments, in matches where this guy supported me, said something to me that inspired me. I have done the same for him.
"It is because we can understand each other more than my father understands me and his father understands him."
Their achievements have earned them entry to snooker's World Cup, which will be held in Bangkok from July 11-17. The US$700,000 (Dh2.6 million) tournament matches 20 two-man teams from countries including England, Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland, Brazil, Australia, Thailand, China and Hong Kong.
The World Cup was last played for in 1996, in Bangkok, when it was won by a Scottish team consisting of John Higgins, Stephen Hendry and Alan McManus. The World Cup was then scrapped, making Scotland one of the longest reigning world champions in sport.
However, it is being revived in Bangkok next month and Shehab and Al Joker cannot wait to pit their wits against the world's best players.
The pair first played together in 1993, when Shehab joined the UAE team. "But being together as teammates and outside, being really close, it goes back to 1996," Shehab said. "Before that, I was a newcomer. I was young and nobody gives any attention to you, but since 1996 I am with Mohammed."
Al Joker said the two friends are inseparable as teammates. "When Shehab is not on the team, or I am not on the team, we feel like something is missing," he said. "Me and Shehab, we are always supporting each other. If he does good, I support him; if I do good, he supports me. All the time we support each other."
Shehab, 34, is from Abu Dhabi, and Al Joker, 38, is from Dubai. Both are policemen. Shehab is also pursuing a Masters in IT, and has three children - two daughters and a son - who need his time.
"So, there are plenty of other things in my life to take care of," Shehab said. "I am not giving any excuses, but I am just trying to say how busy it is for us. On a normal day, I will be at the office every morning, from 7am till 2pm. Then I get back and manage the rest of the things that need my attention.
"I have to go to college and then I also have responsibility towards my family. Among all those things, I need to find time for practice."
Shehab is the West Asian snooker champion and the winner of two bronze medals at the World Games.
Together, Shehab and Al Joker have won a team bronze from the 2009 Asian Indoor Games and Shehab also won the individual bronze at those Games.
They are both looking forward to being on the World Cup stage, where, if they escape from a tough Group B of China, Thailand, Malta and Australia, they may compete against greats of the sport such as world champion Higgins and former world champions Mark Williams, Neil Robertson and Ken Doherty.
"It is a really great achievement for the UAE and I hope we will get some appreciation for this," Al Joker said. "It is a big thing."
It is also hoped that Dubai will host a team event with the same format. "We have given a proposal to the association and hopefully they will be able to find a sponsor to put on the event," Shehab said.