Phil Haigh ✍️
Hossein Vafaei is something of a restless snooker soul, looking for more from himself, wanting more from his sport and hoping people can help him achieve it.
The 28-year-old had a great season last time around, winning his first ranking event at the Shoot Out and becoming the first Iranian to qualify for the Crucible.
However, he feels his game is not progressing how he would like it, stuck in the same battle for consistency that so many players find themselves in.
He is still playing good stuff, qualifying for the main stages of the UK Championship on Wednesday night, but that is when he expressed his frustrations and how he wants to put them to an end.
Vafaei thinks working with a legend of the game, having an icon in his corner, could be the difference in making him turn from contender into champion.
‘I’m trying my best to move forward, but it’s hard when you are alone, when you don’t have anyone to check when you’re off line,’ said Vafaei.
‘You’re always learning from your own mistake. If I lose I learn, but why shouldn’t someone be beside me to tell me what to do before that.
‘Maybe I can be dangerous if someone can help me to go to a different level. I still don’t perform well in tournaments, I’m not finding the consistency. I need some tips from somebody, maybe one of the legends in this sport.
‘I’ve showed that I can play, but it’s very hard to know everything alone. Who knows how far I can go in this game? I just need little tips to improve.
‘I don’t know who, but I will think about it. Maybe I can ask John Higgins and he wouldn’t say no, but I am their opponent right now, so maybe I should ask someone who is not on the tour. Everyone needs to work with someone to get success and improve.
‘I’m not improving. I’m working all the time, but sometimes it’s not working. People ask what’s going on and why I play like that sometimes, but I don’t know, we are human. Some people find consistency and some don’t. That’s the difference between top players and other players.’
Hossein is desperate to succeed because he is not short on dedication, putting in serious hours and he wants to see the rewards.
He is not just talking about winning matches, but he wants to see the sport grow and reap the benefits of playing in more glamorous settings than Ponds Forge where he secured UK Championship qualification on Wednesday.
‘I’m alone in this country. Sometimes it’s hard to know what I’m doing here, why I’m here,’ Vafaei said. ‘As a young person I should enjoy my life. You practice 7-8 hours a day, you don’t see anyone, you’re losing opportunities in your life.
‘I’ve said that before, it’s getting boring, so boring. If this sport doesn’t change to be something big it’s going to be the same, very boring.
‘We need something to change, at least make the venues, qualifiers everything nicer. This sport looks nice on TV, in our suits, they expect behind the scenes to be that, but…you know. Champion of Champions was the first time I saw the LED TVs beside the table, it was great, like football! You feel great when you see something change like that.
‘We need this sport to get bigger, we need some change, I don’t know what it is, but I’d like to see it. I’d like when I go to the venue to enjoy it as a snooker player. I do 8 hours in a room, when I go to the tournament I must be happy, not like, “oh, I’m going there.” Sorry I’m saying that, I’m always honest, I say my opinion, some people like it and some don’t.’
Judd Trump has spoken regularly about wanting to attract a younger audience with some changes in the game and Vafaei sees the Ace as a role model to look up to.
‘Absolutely [I agree with Judd],’ he said. ‘I always follow the players, what they’re saying about this sport. Especially Judd, he’s one of the big heroes of this sport.
‘He’s a legend and he’s a nice kid, not a kid, he’s a nice man! He’s a great hero for the young people to see what he’s done to get to the top. Every young snooker player should follow Judd.’
Vafaei is always ready to give his opinion on matters, most famously when he said Ronnie O’Sullivan should retire earlier this year.
He says he may have got carried away with that particular claim, but reiterates his point that he wants to see snooker grow and feels that the Rocket is the man to help it take off.
‘I didn’t say something really bad!’ Vafaei said. ‘But people said, why are you talking about Ronnie like that?!
‘I said that Ronnie is one of the legends of our sport, a genius, without doubt no one can play snooker better than him, you have to call him god of snooker, he’s a winning machine.
‘I always respect him, as long as he respect me. I don’t want to start anything again talking about something and get people asking why I’m talking like that again. I just said my opinion a little bit. He’s a great man, people love him, and I wish him success.
‘All I was trying to say was, do something for us please Ronnie. Snooker is in your hands. Leave something for the youngsters. I didn’t ask anything too much. If you can make the sport bigger, please do, I know it’s not his job to make snooker big, he should focus on his game, but he’s been winning 30 years, who else can do that for us? To make young players come and play snooker.
‘Maybe my English wasn’t great. What I said was right and at the right time because I qualified for the Crucible and I knew newspapers would write it.
‘All I asked was for our sport to be a bit bigger. I think every snooker player should want this, I know it’s not their job, but when you see the future, it’s a bit of change, a bit back again, you don’t want that.
‘We’re putting our lives into a game. This is why I said Ronnie O’Sullivan should have a private jet, he should be like Tiger Woods, Roger Federer, look at their lifestyle. This is what I want for him!
‘All I said was, help us Ronnie make this game a bit bigger. But he’s done his best, as long as he plays, people love him and I love watching him, I never get tired of that. When I say something bad, it doesn’t mean I don’t love him.’
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