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Tibet's young men discover a passion for snooker

By PALDEN NYIMA in Lhasa | China Daily Global | Updated: 2022-03-15 09:19

Gunga Dondrub plays pool at his billiards club in Lhasa, Tibet autonomous region. PALDEN NYIMA/CHINA DAILY

Known as a gentlemen's game usually played in clubs, snooker is growing in popularity among young men in Lhasa, capital of the Tibet autonomous region.

The sport has developed so quickly that the Lhasa Jianying Surpass Billiards Club recently hosted the Snooker Open of Lhasa. Thirty-six snooker players, divided into elite and social teams, competed in the tournament held between Feb 12 and 20, with 11 players winning titles.

Dechung, who runs the club, said he has liked billiards since he was a boy, and that's why he now runs a billiards club and hosted the snooker tournament. Billiards sports cover a variety of games played on a cloth-covered table with hard balls and cues; pool and snooker are the most popular.

"It's my first time hosting such an event, so I had to learn many new things and I hope to make it better in the future," said Dechung, who plans to stage the competition every year.

Norbu Dradul is in charge of the Tibet Dreamer Sports Culture Development Co, the tournament's co-organizer. He thinks it's important to organize such an event so players can improve their skills and learn from each other.

"In the future, we will organize more events like this to make Lhasa a more interesting place," he said.

Zhao Shiji, who won the elite section of the snooker tournament, works at a billiards club in Lhasa.

"I am happy that I won first place this time, but my opponent also played very well," said Zhao, who thanked the Jianying Surpass Billiards Club for providing a great opportunity for billiards lovers to compete and learn from each other.

Penpa Tsering, from Chamdo, who was runner-up in the elite section, said it was his first snooker tournament and he was pleased with the result.

"I started playing snooker in 2017," he said. "Only a few people played snooker in the past. They played pool more as it is easy to play, (but) now more people are beginning to play snooker," he said.

Snooker is usually played on a bigger table with 15 red balls, six colored balls and a cue ball, while pool is usually played with one black ball, seven yellow balls, seven red balls and a cue ball.

Penpa Tsering said knowledge of pool "does not help much" when learning the rules of snooker.

The term "snooker" was given to the game by a British colonel in 1875 in an officers' mess in Jubbulpore, India. The game's popularity later spread to British Commonwealth countries, Europe and Asia.

Tibetan writer Sochung said snooker did not arrive in the region until the mid- to late-1980s. The region now has 400 billiards clubs and Lhasa alone has more than 100, according to He Zhiwei, president of the Tibet Billiards Association. About 5,000 people in the region are engaged in businesses related to billiards.

"Even though the region does not have a professional snooker player, people are more passionate about the game than those in other Chinese provinces and regions," He said.

"The regional government and the sports bureau also attach great importance to the development of the sport. We hope that more tournaments can be held in the future."

Gunga Dondrub, who runs a billiards club in Lhasa's eastern suburbs, said many local Tibetans love billiards as they enjoy leisure activities.

"With an average altitude of 4,000 meters and the thin air in Tibet, billiards is an ideal game that does not require much physical exertion, and players feel comfortable while playing the game," he said.

"Some people may doubt whether playing billiards contributes to physical exercise, actually it does, according to my experience. I have spent an average of two hours every day in the past few months playing snooker, and now my big belly has gone."

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