PANAJI: Newly-elected vice-president of Billiards & Snooker Federation of India (BSFI), Sunil Morajkar has a dream. “We would love to see Goa as a Pool capital of India alongwith making it a permanent venue for a professional World Championship like Indian Open,” said the 57-year-old real estate businessman in an exclusive Q&A interview with livenewsgoa.com. Here are the excerpts.
LNG: It’s a commendable achievement to become a Vice-President of BSFI. Tell us about your journey to a very high position in the federation?
SM: I have been in this sport for quite some time now and also active in different activities of the federation too. So being the VP has not changed anything for me, but nevertheless it’s a great honour to be apart of a federation which has a legacy of 95 years. This sport was played initially by the Royals, British officers and many of our officers from Services. So it’s indeed a privilege to be a part of this great institution and more so because it’s for the first time in the 95 years history that any Goan is in this federation. The new committee has not been able to meet in person due to the Covid situation. In fact, we were supposed to meet anytime now in Pune but had to cancel it because of the situation in Maharashtra. We are waiting to have this session to chalk out a roadmap to implement our plans todevelop and promote cue sports in India. As a federation, we look at all the states equally and are always there to support them in any which way we can. So me being a VP will notchange anything as far as Goa is concerned as now I have to see the promotion in a larger perspective. However, as President of BSAG, I have some programmes in mind which I will be taking up with the support of my Goa team.
LNG: What will be the way ahead as the pandemic is now declining andplayers will be hungry to play?
SM: Pandemic was a big challenge for cue sports as it was for all the other sports. But we were affected the most as our game is played in controlled conditions in AC rooms and it was very risky to have any games for quite some time. Now that the SOPs are out, there will be a lot of activities happening. In fact, already quite a few tournamentsare announced in some cities. Let’s hope the situation improves for better to get the games rolling in full swing. As you rightlymentioned players are longing to come back to the table. Usually our National Championships happen at the very beginning of every year to get the top rankings and the states have their RankingTournaments before that. But this year due to Covid, neither the states nor the federation were in a position to hold any tournaments or Nationals. However, we have tentatively planned to hold the Nationals in the month of May/June subject to conditions. We will be taking a call on this in our next meeting.Internationally also only a few Professional Tournaments have started. We are yet to get the proper calendar of international events.
LNG: You have been a stalwart of cuesports in Goa. How do you see the future of this sport in Goa?
SM: Most of the Goans may not be aware but Snooker is being played in Goa for quite some time now. In fact Wilson Jones, who, if I am not mistaken, is the first Indian to win an Individual World Championship for India and Michael Fereira had come to inaugurate the Snooker/Billiards table at Bamboo Motels in 1980. So the game has been played in Goa for the last 40 years at least!! But there was no proper support for the game and hence we formed the association. Now it is upto us to take this game to a different level. While forming the association, we had set three specific targets for ourselves. One was to host international tournament/s, second was toopen an Academy and the third was to see that we have at least one player on the National circuit. I am proud to say that our team has achieved them all. We hosted Asian Billiards and Under-19 SnookerChampionship in which top players of ten countries participated. With support of SAG we have been able to open BSAG Cue Sports Academy at the Athletics Stadium, Bambolim, in which we have installed twoSnooker/Billiards and one Pool table and one of our Sub-Junior players was among top 8 in India. However we at BSAG are not satisfied with these achievements and have chalked up plans for promoting the game in nooks and corners of Goa. We need support of all the stakeholders to accomplish this.
LNG: Considering sports tourism and Goa being in great demand now as CM Pramod Sawant is helpful, what can the federation pitch to bring to Goa?
SM: I have first hand experience of how our Chief Minister Pramod Sawant is interested in promoting Goa as a Sports Destination when I had approached him for Ironman 70.3 Goa. There is a Professional World Ranking Championship which the BSFI has been conducting for the last few years in India as Indian Open. This is a top-notch tournament with top Professional Players competing for a prizemoney of £ 300,000. In fact Geet Sethi and I had met the then Chief Minister late Shri Manohar Parrikar to host this Professional Tournament in Goa and makeit a yearly affair. But for some reasons it has not materialised still. I would love to pursue this matter with the current Chief Minister.It is interesting to note that Snooker is the second-highest watched sport in the UK and people spend a lot of money to watch suchtournaments in venues like the Crucible at Sheffield. If we host a leg of this Professional Tournament, we can revive the tourism between UK and India with special offers to watch high-quality Snooker and also visit Goa at the same time. We are also evaluating the prospects of hosting international as well as national tournaments in Goa but the biggest impediment is funding. Although Goa is on the world and national map and we have millions of visitors every year, big corporations are still reluctant to sponsor sports in a big way. We have to work really hard on this front by hosting world class events like the Indian Open to attract big sponsors.
LNG: In your view, how much more work needs to be put into makingbilliards and snooker more popular compared to pool?
SM: It is true that Pool is more popular amongst the youth than Snooker and Billiards. Main reason for that is that the pool table is relatively small and does not need controlled conditions to install. Also Pool is more of a recreational game which takes less time than a Snooker or a Billiards game. Hence we see quite few Pool tables invarious places like hotels and pool parlours. Whereas Snooker/Billiards table is a big table which requires a specialist person to install and it needs to be kept in a controlled environment for proper maintenance and to give best table behaviour. These requirements have made having a Snooker/Billiards set up a relatively difficult and costly affair and hence there are not as many places having these facilities as Pool.Nevertheless, BSAG has plans to promote Snooker/Billiards as well as Pool in Goa, as Goa has that natural attraction to Pool being a tourist and leisure destination. But we cannot be part of the present Pool scene in Goa as many of Pool parlours are not operating according to our requirements.So the answer to your question is that we have to put in a lot of efforts to promote bothe Snooker/Billiards and Pool but in different ways. We would love to see Goa as a Pool capital of India alongwith a permanent venue for a professional World Championship like Indian Open.
LNG: As vice-president, is there any pet project at your heart that you want to bring to the federation table?
SM: Yes. In fact I have listed out quite a few things in this area. But my pet project would be to spread the game in schools and make it accessible to the kids. In fact, BSAG has already approached a few schools in this regard. We have received a very positive response from the schools and colleges.Let’s see how it pans out. Now I am planning to propose it at the national level.
LNG: Do you feel former players of legendary status can play a role in promoting the sport even more in India?
SM: Of course. We have great role models like Geet Sethi, Pankaj Advani to name the ones who have achieved multiple World Championships, which in itself must be a record in India. In fact only these two players have 31 World Champion titles between them, besides the ones won by otherCue Sports players. Youth today need role models to look upto and indeed cue sportsplayers keep these icons on very high esteem. I personally feel we have not utilised these icons to the full potential.