Phil Haigh ✍️
Hossein Vafaei has been struggling to keep his mind on snooker while unrest and protests continue in Iran, saying: ‘Knowing what is going on in my head, I don’t know how I’m playing.’
Dissent has been raging in Iran for nearly two months as citizens protest against decades of hardline clerical rule, sparked by the death of Mahsa Amini, who had been detained for wearing her headdress ‘inappropriately’.
Hundreds of people have died during the weeks of demonstrations and thousands more have been detained, with fears that a large number of executions will follow as punishment.
Vafaei has been trying to focus on snooker and will be doing so when he plays Mark Selby at the UK Championship on Tuesday, but admits it has been very hard to do so while he feels torn on how to react to the situation in Iran.
‘To be honest with you, knowing what is going on in my head, I don’t know how I’m playing,’ Vafaei told Metro.co.uk. ‘I don’t want to celebrate, I don’t want to say I’m happy when I win because of my people.
‘Some of them text me saying I shouldn’t play now, I shouldn’t play out of respect, but what should I do? I need to have my life as well, life goes on. I am supporting my people, I am with them, but what can I do?
‘This is not in my hands, there’s nothing I can do but be a voice for them. I’ve done my best for them, I don’t know what to do more.
‘I don’t know. I’m always with my people. But at the moment, with the news, everyone is asking me if I’ve seen what’s going on in Iran. Of course I know what’s going on in my country, but what can I do, as a young person?
‘I don’t know what to say. I don’t want to get involved in politics. The politics involves me every time, but I just hope peace comes back to the people as soon as possible and I see them happy again. This is the only thing I can wish and say to my people.’
Asked if his friend and family are safe, he said: ”Everyone is okay, everyone’s safe. The news you follow here, you don’t know exactly what it is showing, but sometimes I watch the news and I cry. They are my sisters, they are my brothers. When you see someone dying obviously it’s not nice.’
Snooker does not seem important compared to the fate of a country, but Vafaei will be trying to win the biggest title of his career so far this week in York.
However, he must overcome the upset that the situation in Iran has caused, with his season starting off well but proving to be inconsistent as he struggles to think positively.
‘It has been hard for me to play,’ he said. ‘Starting the season I was happy. I made a 147, a few centuries, then after that I started feeling more and more negative.
‘As soon as your mind becomes negative it’s hard to go back to the positive. This game is all mental and hopefully I’ll be happy again with my people. As soon as they are happy I will be happy too.’
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