Phil Haigh ✍️
Hossein Vafaei enjoyed the best season of his career so far last time around, but that has not stopped him falling out of love with snooker as he feels the game is hurting his life off the table.
The 27-year-old won his first ranking title last campaign, memorably claiming the Snooker Shoot Out title, then qualified for the World Championship for the first time, becoming the first Iranian to play at the Crucible.
Up to number 17 in the world, the Prince of Persia is on the cusp of breaking into the top 16 for the first time and has a great chance of making a Masters debut in January.
However, despite this great news on the table, Vafaei is not feeling good off it, and feels that snooker is costing him fulfilment in his life.
He does not expect this feeling to last, but admits that life on the snooker tour in the UK is getting him down at the moment.
‘I don’t want to blink my eyes and find that I am 40, without children, without family, without anyone beside me. I want to find someone and have a family and not lose my time.
‘I know people will say I’m a sportsman and I should concentrate on my game, but I need to have a life as well. We are human, we are not robots who do just one thing.
‘That’s why at the moment I don’t enjoy the game at all and I don’t know why. It’s really bad. Many players get that feeling sometimes. It has happened to me before, and then I get the love of the game back. I am trying to enjoy it again.
‘In September I am going back to Iran to spend more time with my family. I am so happy out there and they treat me like a king. Every time I come to England I miss my country, my home. I miss my bed, my room, my family, my mum. But England is great for my career.
‘I am trying my best. If I get into the top 16 and the Masters, that’s very good. If not, life keeps going. As a young player I want to achieve more, to win more tournaments.
‘I want to make my country proud and make snooker bigger in Iran. I’m definitely working hard for that. But if it doesn’t happen, I’ll have to say sorry, my life is more important. I’m not going to punish myself. I’m trying to be a good person and a good champion for the people.’
Vafaei has been back in Iran over the summer, meeting the country’s prime minister, sports minister and president of the Olympic Committee.
After his recent successes, the Shoot Out champion is getting a lot more attention back in his homeland where the sport is growing immensely thanks to his victories.
‘It was crazy, it was mad,’ he said. ‘Everywhere, in the streets, in the shopping centre. I went shopping with my mum, so many people recognised me. I couldn’t imagine it.
‘Before I went back, friends told me I would be shocked because I didn’t realise how famous I am there now. I said, “Really? Snooker is not that big.” But they were right. I have to be careful now, what I say and what I do.
‘If the young generation want to follow me, I have to understand that if I disrespect the people, then my fans will disrespect their families as well.’
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