Phil Haigh ✍️
Hossein Vafaei has a strong sense of purpose in snooker and will not be denied in his quest for history as he looks to join the sport’s elite.
The Prince of Persia became the first Iranian to win a ranking event when he lifted the Shoot Out trophy earlier this year and now he is one game away from becoming the first player from Iran to play at the Crucible.
The 27-year-old strolled past Simon Lichtenberg 6-0 in his first qualifying contest and will be favourite to beat Lei Peifan over a best-of-19 frames to reach the Crucible.
Vafaei has not been past the semi-finals of a longer-format event than the Shoot Out, but he will not stop trying until he has, and achieved plenty more on top of that.
The Iranian remembers words from Ronnie O’Sullivan, possibly when the Rocket said he would not encourage children into snooker, or that lower-ranked players are wasting their lives, but Vafaei would not want to be anywhere else as he fights for glory on the baize after fighting adversity just to become a pro.
‘I’m trying my best,’ Vafaei told WST. ‘You don’t want to just be…there. I’ve said that before, whoever has been in my situation, he wouldn’t be here.
‘I think on TV they asked that of Ronnie O’Sullivan, he said, “If I was in his situation I’d rather have another job.”
‘But no. I will never give up. I’m working hard for my people, to make them proud, make my country proud and I’m born to make history.
‘I can’t wait to get to that stage [the Crucible]. I try my best, as much as I can, I will work hard and I will fight until my last blood.’
Vafaei came tantilisingly close to another final this season when he led Judd Trump 5-3 in a race to six in the semi-finals of the Welsh Open.
Trump fired back to reel off three frames on the spin, and while Hossein was hurt by the loss, he took confidence from going so close to the final in Wales.
‘When I think about that semi-final, I’m very disappointed because only in his dreams could Judd beat me like that,’ he said. ‘I was 5-3 up so I was a little bit disappointed after the Welsh Open, but he deserved it, he played fantastic.
‘But I get very good confidence from that as well. Hopefully that continues to make my people proud.’
Vafaei and Lei will meet on Wednesday for a place at the Crucible on Judgement Day.
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